As he stood on the field behind an end zone at the Osaka Dome while the final seconds of the Washington Redskins' first preseason game ticked off the clock, Hall of Fame quarterback and longtime Redskins broadcaster Sonny Jurgensen said: "The headline should read like this: 'Guess What? It Works.' "

Everyone who follows football had spent months wondering and debating whether Steve Spurrier could duplicate his exploits as an offensive whiz of a college coach with his new team, the Redskins. The early returns were wildly in Spurrier's favor as the Redskins rolled to a 38-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers today (Saturday night EDT) in an American Bowl exhibition game that represented Spurrier's unofficial unveiling as a National Football League coach.

"We've still got a lot of things to improve on, but that went well," tackle Jon Jansen said. "You put up 38 points, something is working well. It was a good first day. I had a sense it was going to work well."

The site, the only partially filled Osaka Dome, was halfway around the world from Spurrier's former stamping ground, 'The Swamp' at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Although Spurrier's trademark visor was nowhere to be seen, the Redskins' offense was pitching and catching just the way he planned. The result was that this looked quite a bit like most of his 122 triumphs over 12 seasons at Florida -- including his final one, a 56-23 win over Maryland in the Orange Bowl in January.

"The last game I had, I was standing up there getting a bowl of oranges," said Spurrier, 57. "This one, it's a nice trophy. . . . Winning and losing [a preseason game], nobody is going to [care] five, six weeks from now. But tonight there's a winner and a loser, and we're going home a winner. So the trip home won't feel quite as long."

The Redskins piled into buses headed for the airport and the 13-hour flight home to Dulles International Airport. On Tuesday, they are scheduled to be back at the training-camp grind in Carlisle, Pa. They have four more preseason games before their Sept. 8 regular season opener against the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field, and Spurrier and his players readily acknowledged that beating the 49ers in the preseason lid-lifter proved little.

"It was a fun first night," quarterback Danny Wuerffel said. "But we have to remember it's only the first game, the first night. It's not going to matter too much, good or bad. . . . We'll see how it goes once the regular season starts."

Said Spurrier: "Before the game, we talked to our team and said it's not going to be a big deal if we do well, and it's not going to be a big deal if we don't do well. We were probably a little more into it than the 49ers. We had more to prove than they did. . . . They won 12 games last year. I think we're trying to earn our stripes a little bit more, so I think we were a little more ready to play than they were. But anyway, it was fun for our guys."

As is typical of preseason games, most of the starters for both teams played only briefly and tailback Stephen Davis, the focal point of the Redskins' offense the past three seasons, didn't even carry the ball.

Despite the traditionally limited use of starters, it was important to the Redskins to start the Spurrier era on a positive note. Just as their dreadful preseason under coach Marty Schottenheimer a year ago set the tone for five straight losses to open the regular season, the Redskins hope that a successful exhibition season under Spurrier carries over into the games that matter.

For the duration, Spurrier will stick with his system. In fact, he is such a firm believer in it that he thinks the Redskins will function fine as long as his players -- even if they don't have hefty NFL re{acute}sume{acute}s -- follow his instructions to the letter. That's part of the reason that two former Florida quarterbacks (Wuerffel and Shane Matthews) and three former Gators wide receivers (Jacquez Green, Reidel Anthony and Chris Doering) are on the roster.

For one day, at least, Spurrier appeared to be right. Starting quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who didn't play during the regular season as a rookie last year under Schottenheimer, led the offense in the first half and amassed 172 yards on 10-for-20 passing. Wuerffel, who is with his fourth NFL team after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Spurrier's Gators to a college national championship in 1996, took over in the second half and did even better, completing 16 of 25 throws for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Unproven wide receivers Derrius Thompson and Darnerien McCants had two touchdown catches apiece.

"Football is universal," McCants said. "It's the same at every level. If you'd take this system to high school, it would work the same way. Coach allows us to go play. He has offensive plays to beat certain coverages, and that's what we did. . . . It's about the system."

The Redskins' offense sputtered early with Rosenfels throwing an interception before he threw a completion. But the patched-together offensive line held up, and Rosenfels and Wuerffel teamed with the club's unheralded wide receivers to make things happen. It was vintage Spurrier when a fourth-and-one gamble in the fourth quarter turned into a 31-yard touchdown pass from Wuerffel to Thompson.

"The first few possessions, nothing was happening," Spurrier said. "Then [Rosenfels] hit Derrius on that post route [for a 65-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7 in the second quarter]. We were pretty good after that, I guess."

Rosenfels and Wuerffel made early impressions in the Redskins' starting-quarterback competition, but mostly will watch Saturday when Matthews is scheduled to play three quarters or more in the second preseason game at Carolina.

"I'm happy we won," Rosenfels said. "I'm happy we didn't come all the way over here and not score. This offense got better throughout the game, and that's good."

In Osaka, Japan, Steve Spurrier's first game as an NFL coach featured 38 points by the Redskins' offense, including two touchdowns by Darnerien McCants.Washington Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier, after his team won the American Bowl exhibition game in Osaka, Japan: "We're going home a winner. So the trip home won't feel quite as long."