Monday, November 15, 2010

Gator/Spartan Twin-Bill at Stadium, 11/14/70

In 1969, Tampa Stadium hosted a doubleheader featuring the University of Florida against Tulane, followed by the University of Tampa against Tulsa. A total of 55,553 fans turned out for the "Super Saturday" games, and the event proved to be so successful that organizers tried the concept again on November 14, 1970.

This time, the 6-3 Florida Gators would square off against the 2-7 Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats were technically the home team since the game was moved from Lexington, thanks in large part to the efforts of local attorney Tom MacDonald of the West Coast Bowl Association. This would be the first Southeastern Conference game played in Tampa since the two teams faced each other at Phillips Field in 1949, a contest won 35-0 by the Paul "Bear" Bryant coached Wildcats.

As in 1969, the game would be a homecoming for Florida's starting quarterback John Reaves. Against the Green Wave the previous year, the Robinson High graduate led the Gators to a late come-from-behind 18-17 victory.

In the nightcap, the 8-0 University of Tampa Spartans would play host to the 5-4 Bengals of Idaho State. The Spartans -- ranked No. 1 in the nation among small colleges -- entered the game in pursuit of a school-record ninth consecutive victory. Running back Leon McQuay had something special to play for as well, coming into the game with 72 total points on the season.

After scoring five touchdowns the previous week against Southwestern Louisiana, McQuay needed only two touchdowns to break the record for points scored by a Spartan in a single season held by Charlie Harris (84 points in 1952).

The Gators and Wildcats opened the day of football at Tampa Stadium with an early afternoon kickoff. In front of 44,312 fans, the Gators and Wildcats both got off to slow starts.
Jim Getzen put the Gators on the board in the first quarter with a 29-yard field goal to give Florida an early 3-0 lead. Kentucky answered back with three of their own, courtesy of a 33-yarder by Bob Jones to even the score at 3-3 in the second quarter.

Gator partisans must have felt nervous later in the second when Kentucky running back Houston Hogg scored from eight yards out to put the Wildcats up by a touchdown.
With 17 seconds left in the half, Reaves put his Gators back in the game by connecting with Willie Jackson on a 70-yard touchdown strike. The Gators and Wildcats went into the locker room tied 10-10.

In the third quarter, the Gators kept Kentucky out of the end zone with a huge goal line stand, forcing the Wildcats to settle for a field goal. Kentucky took a 13-10 lead, but it would be short-lived.

Reaves tossed his second touchdown of the day -- this time to Jim Yancey from 10 yards out -- to give Florida their first lead of the game, 17-13.

With the game's outcome still in doubt, Reaves led Florida on an 80-yard, fourth quarter drive to put the game out of reach. Reaves' second touchdown pass of the game to Yancey, a 14-yarder, capped the drive and gave Florida a 24-13 lead which would end up as the final score.

Reaves' three touchdown passes allowed him to tie former Gator Steve Spurrier for the school record of 36 career touchdown passes. Like Reaves, Leon McQuay of Tampa would also have a record-setting day.

In the evening contest, the Spartans had a far easier time putting away their opponent than Florida did with Kentucky. In front of very respectable crowd of 20,238, the Spartans put on a clinic for the team from Idaho.

As a team, the Spartans rushed for 465 yards and scored 10 touchdowns en route to a 68-7 shellacking of the Bengals.

"We just did everything right," said Spartan head coach Fran Curci.

McQuay carried the ball only 16 times, but he ran for 213 yards and scored three touchdowns, enough to propel him into sole possession of first place for most points scored in a season by a Spartan.

The enjoyment of the day for the event organizers and fans of the Gators and Spartans became subdued later in the evening, however, as the news came out that a plane carrying the Marshall University football team had crashed in West Virginia, killing all 75 people on board. Dave and Rick Bankston, who played linebacker for the Spartans, had an older brother on Marshall’s freshman football coaching staff. They were relieved to find out that their brother -- who sometimes traveled with the varsity team -- had not been on the trip.

1 comment:

  1. Re. Leon McQuay:

    Hi...I'm working on a documentary film about the history of the Canadian Football League. Leon McQuay's fumble int he '71 Grey Cup is still legendary here, but it's difficult to find information on McQuay's life back in Florida after his playing days were over. I know he died of a her attack in '95, that he was trying to become a minister and that his grandson is now one of the finest football prospects in the US. Do you know where I can get more information on McQuay--what happened to him after football ended. Much appreciated/ Andrew Gregg, Toronto