Sports Outside the Beltway

FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger returns to Florida Field

The Boca Raton University makes it first ever trip to Gainesville. However it isn’t the first for the Owls’ Coach.

It was the 1980 season finale and Howard Schnellenberger’s unranked Miami Hurricanes had tacked on another touchdown for a 28-7 lead against No. 18 Florida. The Gators’ student section, frustrated and angry at its targets below, unleashed a final volley.

The fruit, used to sneak alcohol into the stadium, hit a UM cheerleader. Next, Schnellenberger’s 20-year-old son got plunked.

Then came a near-knockout blow. Assistant coach Christ Vagotis took one to the head, dropping him to a knee.

With one second remaining, Schnellenberger fired back.

“Field goal,” he yelled to his kicking unit.

Offensive coordinator Kim Helton, standing alongside Schnellenberger, couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Oh, coach. Don’t do it …don’t do it,” Helton pleaded.

Danny Miller’s field goal brought more venom, but Schnellenberger had made his point.

“They raised a ruckus when I kicked it, but that’s why I did it,” he said this week. “I wanted to be asked about it after the game.”

Rowdy Florida College football fans in 1980. Hard to believe? You got to remember that the Gators went winless in 1979 and some thought the Hurricanes were doomed after Coach Lou Saban left Miami for West Point early in 1979.(Funny how Sabans leave Miami early, as I pointed out in this post)

Today, Schnellenberger returns to Florida Field for only the fourth time since that infamous orange-inspired field goal when his Florida Atlantic Owls play the Gators, who are favored to win by 34 points.


Schnellenberger, whose Hurricanes were on their way to the Peach Bowl, the school’s first post-season game in 12 seasons, didn’t hesitate to call on Miller for a 35-yard attempt.


Schnellenberger’s Hurricanes weren’t as successful in their last two visits to Florida.

In 1982, the Gators snapped a four-game losing streak against UM, winning 17-14 on a late touchdown catch by running back James Jones.

In 1983, Schnellenberger started a freshman quarterback at Florida Field and lost 28-3.

Fortunately for UM, Bernie Kosar recovered from that inauspicious debut to lead the Hurricanes to 11 straight wins, including the 1984 Orange Bowl against Nebraska for the Hurricanes’ first national championship.

Schnellenberger’s last game at Florida came as Louisville’s coach in a 31-17 loss in 1992 to Steve Spurrier’s Gators.

I played ball against James Jones star of the 82 game. James Jones, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions, played high school football at Pompano Beach Ely High School.

This year I think Howard Schnellenberger is more worried about his heavy underdog Owls team getting out of Gainesville in one piece physically, rather than the threat of more oranges being thrown at him.

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