Bo Jackson gained 197 yards on 16 carries and had brilliant touchdown runs of 55 and 80 yards to lead fourth-ranked Auburn over fifth-rated Florida today, 28-21, in a Southeastern Conference game Florida Coach Charley Pell described as "a nasty tasting loss."
Pell was furious over a ruling that nullified an apparent eight-yard scoring run by Neal Anderson midway through the third quarter.
"If this had been a court case, it'd never gone to trial," Pell said. "The jury was already prejudiced . . . But I'm not blaming the loss on the officials. I'm just frustrated. When it comes down to borderline plays, they should go 50-50, not only one way. Anything close and it was theirs."
Auburn Coach Pat Dye said, "He (Pell) can do all the mouthing he wants . . . I don't believe in playing all that psychological bull to win football games."
The victory put the Tigers (7-1, 4-0) into a first place tie with No. 6 Georgia in the SEC title chase. Florida (6-1-1, 3-1) hosts the Bulldogs next week, with Auburn playing at Georgia the following Saturday.
Pell said the officials came into the game thinking of Florida as a "dirty team." But his biggest gripe concerned "the touchdown they (the officials) stole from us."
With 8:33 to play in the third quarter, Anderson was hit by cornerback Jimmy Warren as he crossed the goal line and the ball bounced out of the back of the end zone. It first appeared Anderson had crossed the goal line and would be credited with the touchdown, but officials ruled it a touchback and Auburn got the ball at its 20. "They stole it right there," Pell said.
On the next play, quarterback Randy Campbell quick-pitched to Jackson and the 230-pound sophomore from tiny Bessemer, Ala., broke through left tackle and ran 80 yards for a touchdown. That turn of events came with 8:20 left in the quarter, put the score at 28-7 and not only "ripped it wide away," as Pell said, but stole the momentum that Florida could never regain.
Told by a reporter that a television replay on Anderson's run appeared to show that it was a good call, Pell said, "If I see the game film and I am wrong, I will apologize." He added that if his remarks "showed a lack of class on my part, I apologize to my family."
The Gators mounted drives on their next three possessions that took them deep into War Eagle territory, only to be stopped short every time by a defense led by cornerback David King (10 unassisted tackles) and linebacker Gregg Carr (seven unassisted, eight assisted).
On the last of those three drives, the Auburn defense rallied to shut down the Gators on a goal-line stand that had the crowd of 75,700 shouting in one frantic chorus. Faced with fourth and goal, quarterback Wayne Peace handed off to Anderson diving over the middle, but he fumbled and defensive end Gerald Robinson recovered on the three.
The next time Florida got the ball, tailback John L. Williams scored from the one, ending a drive highlighted by the precision passing of Peace, who completed 29 of 41 for 336 yards and two touchdowns. That touchdown came with 8:04 to play in the game.
The Gators' defense held on the following series, then Peace again went to the air, producing a 69-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Dwayne Dixon. With Bobby Raymond's kick, it was 28-21 with 2:49 left to play.
Florida then lined up in onside kick formation, overloading its right side and substituting its front linemen with sure-handed backs and receivers. Chris Perkins' kicked a bouncer that dribbled through a score of arms and legs before Bill Nelson recovered for Florida at the Auburn 43.
With the answer that would silence the critics only 57 yards from scrimmage, Peace dropped back to pass but was sacked for an eight-yard loss by end Quency Williams. That all but ended the Gators' hopes. In three more plays, they got nowhere.
"When you get it two years in a row at Auburn," Pell said, "that's enough. We plan to go through the proper proceedings with the conference office so it won't happen again."