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Redskins Lose Footing

Bid to Take Step Toward Postseason Slowed in Spurrier's Return to Fla.

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 11, 2002; Page D01

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 10 -- Some Washington Redskins were hoping for a grand homecoming, while others envisioned taking another step toward a playoff berth. The Redskins accomplished neither. Coach Steve Spurrier's offense gasped and wheezed in his first regular season NFL game in the state where he became a legend, and his team lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-7, today before 66,665 at Alltel Stadium.

The parking lots were filled hours before game time with Spurrier backers and Spurrier bashers, all eager to see if he could recapture the magic he created about 75 miles southwest of here in Gainesville, where he led the University of Florida to 122 victories in 12 seasons. He couldn't. The Redskins (4-5) had their two-game winning streak ended, and Spurrier was left criticizing his play-calling. The Jaguars (4-5) ended a four-game losing skid.

Defensive end Marco Coleman, formerly of the Redskins, harasses former team, including guard Wilbert Brown, quarterback Shane Matthews, during the Jaguars' 26-7 triumph. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"This has been a good stadium for most of the teams I've been lucky enough to coach," said Spurrier, whose previous teams were 12-1 in this facility and the one that it replaced, the old Gator Bowl. "It didn't work out tonight. You're only as good as your last game. I'm not very good right now."

Said Redskins wide receiver Chris Doering, one of Spurrier's former Gators players: "You come home and have a chance to play in front of family and friends, and we wanted to have a better showing than we had tonight. It's disappointing."

The Redskins had more running plays than passes in their previous three games, the last two victories. But Spurrier called for 51 passes and 16 running plays.

"I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field, like at the end there," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

Jacksonville Coach Tom Coughlin got at least a temporary reprieve from locals who said Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver should have ousted him last offseason and hired Spurrier. The Redskins drove efficiently for a touchdown the first time they had the ball, but did little on offense thereafter.

Quarterback Shane Matthews, who ended that opening possession with a 20-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Rod Gardner, completed 27 of 50 passes for 256 yards. He threw two interceptions, and rookie Patrick Ramsey added another one on a desperation heave at the end of the first half. Tailback Kenny Watson rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries in his second straight start in place of the injured Stephen Davis, and the Redskins also lost the special-teams battle. Bryan Barker set up a second-quarter touchdown by Jacksonville with a 12-yard punt, and place kicker James Tuthill was short on a 49-yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar.

The Jaguars got four field goals from Tim Seder and touchdown runs of two yards by Stacey Mack in the second quarter and 12 yards by Fred Taylor in the third quarter.

"We went back to work last week instead of feeling sorry for ourselves," Coughlin said. "Our attitude was good. We were physical. . . . Steve is an excellent football coach. He's a friend. It was the Redskins against the Jaguars, and that was it. It wasn't about any carnival or sideshow that was being created by the media."

Spurrier's offense got off to a smooth beginning, as the Redskins drove 77 yards. Watson gained 15 yards on his first carry. He ran nine yards on the next play but absorbed a jarring hit from safety Donovin Darius. Fullback Bryan Johnson turned a short pass from Matthews into an 11-yard gain, and wide receiver Derrius Thompson got 12 yards on a screen pass to put the Redskins at Jacksonville's 15-yard line.

An intentional-grounding call on Matthews pushed the Redskins back to the 25, and a five-yard run by Watson left them in a third-and-15 predicament. No matter. Gardner, a Jacksonville native, got wide open between cornerback Fernando Bryant and Darius, and hauled in Matthews's throw for the touchdown.

Linebacker LaVar Arrington sacked Mark Brunell to end the Jaguars' first possession, and Spurrier left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-inches gamble from the Redskins 40. Watson ran for a first down with a pitchout, and a pass-interference call on cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas enraged Coughlin and kept the Redskins' drive going.

On first down from the 35, Matthews spotted wideout Jacquez Green matched up one-on-one with cornerback Jason Craft. Green went deep along the left sideline. But Craft stayed with the wide receiver stride for stride and grabbed Matthews's pass for an interception.

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