Choosing the game for our first installment of TIGFH was a relatively easy chore because In the 103 years of Gator football there have been only five games played on Sept. 3. The Gators have won all five.
The 1983 season brought with it high expectations for the Gators who were coming off an 8-4 record for Coach Charley Pell’s fifth campaign as the Gator head coach. The Gators would be led Seniors Wayne Peace (QB) and All-America Wilber Marshall (LB).
The Gator roster was also loaded with stars of the future for the Gators, players such as Neal Anderson, Lomas Brown, Crawford Ker, Jeff Zimmerman, Gary Rolle, Tim Newton, John L. Williams and Dwayne Dixon were all on that 1983 roster.
The Canes, coached by fifth-year coach Coach Howard Schnellenberger also had their share of talent on the field. Redshirt QB Bernie Kosar would lead the Miami attack which would also field such players as Alonzo Highsmith and Jay Brophy.
The Gators were ranked seeventh heading into the game with Miami being unranked.
Senior Wayne Peace came out showing the touch that set an NCAA completion record in 1982 completed his first 12 passes including two touchdown tosses to fullback Joe Henderson on the Gators first two drives to stake the Gators to a 13-0 lead at the half on the way to a 28-3 victory.
Neal Anderson tacked on an eight-yard run in the third quarter and the Gators increased their lead by scoring with field goals of 53 yards (Chris Perkins) and 35 yards (Bobby Raymond) all in the third period. Raymond added a 41-yarder in the final stanza.
The Marshall led defense took the ball from the Hurricanes seven times in the game, which led to 16 of the Gator’s points.
Miami was able to kick a late field goal (Schnellenberger was good at getting those late field goals kicked in the Swamp) to avoid a shutout.
As the season progressed the Gators season was once again marred with the back-to-back games with Auburn and Georgia. The loss at Auburn was by 7 and the the Bulldogs defeated Florida 10-9. Those eight points (and a tie in Los Angeles against Southern California) were the only blemishes on the Gators 9-2-1 record.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, caught fire and ran the table for the 1983 season. Though unranked until after the fifth game of the season, the Canes got the game they wanted in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska and won a hard fought game 31-30 to secure their first national championship. Florida won its Gator Bowl in frigid weather against the Chuck Long-led Iowa Hawkeyes 14-6. So cold was the Gator Bowl that evening that fans were actually booing when the clock stopped for any reason prolonging the misery of the fans in the stands.
I know, I was there.
Post-season honors were plentiful for that 1983 team. Dwayne Dixon captured the team’s Fergie Ferguson Award. Wayne Peace was one of twelve finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award. Wilber Marshall won the 1983 Player of the Year Award for Defense (ABC). The All-SEC Academic team included Gary Rolle (WR), Jon Moyle (OL), Neal Anderson (RB) and Bruce Vaughn (DB). Named first-team All-SEC were Dwayne Dixon (WR). Phil Bromley (OL), Wilber Marshal (LB) and Tony Lily (DB). Marshall also was a first-team All-American.