|1923 Florida Gators football|
|1923 record||6–1–2 (1–0–2 SoCon)|
|Head coach||James Van Fleet (1st season)|
|Offensive scheme||Notre Dame Box|
|Captain||W. M. Robinson|
|Home stadium||Fleming Field|
|1923 Southern Conference football standings|
|Washington & Lee +||4||–||0||–||1||6||–||3||–||1|
The 1923 Florida Gators football team represented the University of Florida during the 1923 Southern Conference football season. This was Major James Van Fleet's first of two seasons as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team. Van Fleet was a serving officer in the U.S. Army and a professor of military tactics in the university's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, and had been a standout fullback on the undefeated West Point Cadets team of 1914. Van Fleet's 1923 Florida Gators finished 6–1–2 overall, and 1–0–2 in the Southern Conference, placing third of twenty-one teams in the conference standings.
Notably, Florida alumni and students celebrated their first-ever Homecoming with a 19–7 victory over the Mercer Baptists. The Gators tied the defending SoCon champion Georgia Tech Golden Tornado, and the highlight of the 1923 season was a 16–6 upset of coach Wallace Wade's previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide on a muddy, rain-soaked field in Birmingham, Alabama in the final game of the year.
- 1 Before the season
- 2 Schedule
- 3 Season summary
- 4 Postseason
- 5 Personnel
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
Before the season
One preseason account reads: "Big Cy Williams, star Freshman tackle of last year and probably the Varsity tackle of this year, was the immediate cause of the 'dummy's' downfall for when he dove into the lifeless foe, it collapsed and Cy was deluged with sawdust. A new 'dummy' was brought out but it is predicted that it will not last long under the fierce tackling of the Gators gridders."
|October 6||at Army*||L 20–0|
|October 13||at Georgia Tech||T 7–7||12,000|
|October 19||Rollins*||W 28–0|
|October 27||vs. Wake Forest||W 16–7||7,000|
|November 3||Mercer*||W 19–7||5,000|
|November 10||Stetson*||W 27–0|
|November 17||vs. Florida Southern*||Lakeland, FL||W 53–0|
|November 24||vs. Mississippi A&M||T 13–13|
|November 29||at Alabama||W 16–6||10,000|
Primary source: 2015 Florida Gators Football Media Guide.
Week 1: at Army
Edgar Garbisch missed two first-half field goals. In the third quarter Army's passing game began to work, leading to a touchdown by William H. Wood. A blocked punt led to another Wood score. In the fourth quarter, Tiny Hewitt broke through the line for a 35-yard run, leading to the final score by quarterback George Smythe.
The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Goldstein (left guard), Cornwall (center), Norton (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merrin (right end), Newton (quarterback), Middlekauff (left halfback), Case (right halfback), Jones (fullback).
Week 2: at Georgia Tech
The Gators contest with coach Bill Alexander's Georgia Tech Golden Tornado brought interest after the prior week's game with Army. In front of 12,000 at Grant Field, the Gators were up 7–0 until a rush of substitutes in the fourth quarter got Tech the tying score. The tie "knocked the Golden Tornado...off of its pedestal as the top team in Southern football." The tie excited fans and "provided more positive national for Florida football than it had ever received."
Florida scored after a 25-yard Ark Newton interception return. A Newton pass to Edgar C. Jones then got the ball to Tech's 3-yard line. From there, Bill Middlekauff hit the line for a touchdown.
The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Norton (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merwin (right end), Jones (quarterback), Brown (left halfback), Newton (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).
Week 3: Rollins
Florida scored three touchdowns in the first quarter against the Rollins Tars and eased up afterwards, winning 28–0. The big score was as expected. The Stetson Collegiate said the Gators "rank as the best in the South."
Rollins did not manage a first down the entire first half.
The starting lineup was: Merrin (left end), Williams (left tackle), Smith (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Lightsey (right end), Jones (quarterback), Brown (left halfback), Pomeroy (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).
Week 4: Wake Forest
On Plant Field in Tampa, the Gators defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 16–7. Wake Forest was held scoreless in the first half while Florida scored two touchdowns with one extra point and a field goal.
The Demon Deacons scored in the third quarter on a series of runs and forward passes. They again threatened the goal in the fourth quarter, but were stopped at the 2-yard line on downs.
The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Smith (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merrin (right end), Jones (quarterback), Newton (left halfback), Pomeroy (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).
Week 5: Mercer
In front of the largest crowd yet to see a game in Gainesville (5,000), Florida defeated coach Stanley L. Robinson's Mercer Baptists at its first ever homecoming 19–7. Florida had 18 first downs to Mercer's 2.
Mercer's touchdown came in the first quarter on the recovery of an Ark Newton punt blocked by Mercer's Crook Smith. Mercer's Kid Cecil also had many spectacular runs. A 28-yard pass from Edgar C. Jones to Spec Lightsey got the Gators' first touchdown. Another touchdown came on a Bill Middlekauff run as the third quarter closed, after a drive utilizing both the run and the pass. The final score came on a run around end by Dick Brown.
Middlekauff said after the game, "Mercer's line is the strongest one I have seen this year–and I have plunged the Army's and Tech's."
Week 6: Stetson
In the sixth week of play, the Gators defeated the Stetson Hatters 27–0.
Florida opened the game expecting to need only substitutes. This was quickly recognized as foolish; and a mix of substitutes and starters scored the first touchdown. Stetson's offense then got going, with a run of 28 yards and 55 yards resulting in a touchdown if not for a holding penalty. Then the Gators sent in the varsity. Still, Stetson outperformed Florida in the second quarter. The lack of reserves wore on Stetson, and Florida opened up the contest in the second half.
Week 7: Florida Southern
Week 8: Mississippi A&M
In the first minutes of play, Luckett scored for Mississippi A&M. The Gators answered with a touchdown on a pass from Jones to Ark Newton. In the second quarter, from his own 1-yard line, Newton had a 96-yard punt, topping his previous record of 92. It went 65 yards in the air.
The Gators failed to capitalize on the long punt, and fumbled at the 7-yard line on its next possession. After an exchange of punts, Luckett ran for 53 yards on a double pass play, setting up another Aggie touchdown.
After another exchange of punts, two passes set up the tying score: Newton to Lightsey and Jones to Newton. Bill Middlekauff then made the tying score from the 5-yard line with four line plunges. Newton missed the extra point.
The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Norton (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merwin (right end), Jones (quarterback), Newton (left halfback), Pomeroy (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).
Week 9: at Alabama
On a muddy field with pools of water, the Gators upset the previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide with a comeback, 16–6 victory on Thanksgiving Day, putting the Florida program in the national spotlight for the first time. It was the Tide's first year under head coach Wallace Wade. The upset gave his previous school of Vanderbilt the SoCon title. In an attempt to drum up publicity, Champ Pickens photographed a stuffed alligator and drew tiny Crimsons swarming around it.
Florida back Edgar C. Jones scored all of his team's points. The Gator scores by Jones came on runs of 10 yards around right end, a 12-yard place kick, and a 20-yard run around right end. The punting of Ark Newton and the line play of captain Robbie Robinson (in his final game) and Goldy Goldstein also helped the Gators get the victory.
In the first half, Alabama's Grant Gillis won the punting battle and Florida was on the defensive, turning back multiple scoring threats from inside the 10-yard line. Pooley Hubert scored first. The Gators eschewed their stockings in the second half, due to the rain and mud, and waited until the last minute to come out for the kickoff, while Alabama was already lined up. Because of this maneuver, Wade never spoke to coach Van Fleet again.
A few minutes into the second half, Newton complete a 12-yard pass to Dick Brown, down at Alabama's 20-yard line. Brown went around left end for 9 yards; then Jones went around right end for 10 yards and the tying touchdown. Newton missed the extra point. Moments later Newton kicked a punt of 60 yards, from his own 20-yard line to the same of Alabama's. Gillis botched the ensuing Alabama punt. Bill Middlekauff ran behind left guard twice, and Newton ran behind right tackle once, netting 8 yards in three plays. From the 12-yard line, Jones converted a placekick. Newton continued to punt well, and attempted a 53-yard field goal which barely missed. He also tried a 60-yard field goal which was blocked, recovered by Florida's Joe Merrin on Alabama's 20-yard line. Runs at the line failed, and Jones went around right end for 20 yards and the final touchdown.
After the game, Van Fleet said "Tom Sebring helped in that game with an idea. Ark needed a little more time (to punt) than most. Sebring proposed we worry only about the kick and not the runback, leaving an extra blocker for Ark. It worked."
The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Norton (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merrin (right end), Jones (quarterback), Newton (left halfback), Brown (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).
Robbie Robinson, Goldy Goldstein and Ark Newton became the first Gators to make the composite All-Southern team. Edgar C. Jones and Bill Middlekauff made Billy Evans's "Southern Honor Roll". Robinson and Goldstein made Evans' National Honor Roll.
The following chart provides a visual depiction of Florida's lineup during the 1923 season with games started at the position reflected in parenthesis. The chart mimics a Notre Dame Box on offense.
|Goldy Goldstein||guard||Jacksonville, Florida||Duval High||6'3"||210||19|
|Robbie Robinson||tackle||Mobile, Alabama||6'0"||180||21|
|Cy Williams||tackle||Sopchoppy, Florida||6'0"||200|
|J. R. Rose||end|
|Edgar C. Jones||quarterback||Jacksonville, Florida||19|
|Bill Middlekauff||fullback||Miami, Florida||6'2"||200||19|
|Ark Newton||halfback||Camden, Arkansas||Camden High||6'1"||185||20|
- Head coach: James Van Fleet
- Assistants: Tom Sebring, Everett Yon, George Weber, Rex Farrior (freshmen)
- Manager: Frank Evans
- 2015 Florida Gators Football Media Guide Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 107–108 (2015). Retrieved August 15, 2015.
- 2009 Southern Conference Football Media Guide, Year-by-Year Standings, Southern Conference, Spartanburg, South Carolina, p. 74 (2009). Retrieved August 30, 2010.
- Pete Norton (December 23, 1934). "Sports Outlook". St. Petersburg Times.
- Associated Press (December 1, 1922). "Florida Freshmen Claim The Crown". p. 6. Retrieved February 5, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Newton, Virgil M. (September 19, 1923). "'Ark' Newton Ready To Go". St. Petersburg Times.
- "Army Eleven Comes Strong At the End". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 7, 1923. p. 49. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Florida Defeated By West Point Team". Springfield Missouri Republican. October 7, 1923. p. 3. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Lawrence Perry (October 12, 1934). "Game's For The Sake". Harrisburg Telegraph. p. 19. Retrieved September 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- University of Florida 1924, p. 99
- Carlson 2007, p. 28
- "Tech and Florida Tie at Seven-Seven In Hard Struggle". The Index Journal. October 14, 1923. p. 6. Retrieved July 27, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Woodruff 1928, p. 243
- "[No title]". Stetson Collegiate. 32 (7). October 23, 1929.
- Virgil M. Newton (October 21, 1923). "Fighting 'Gators Nip Rollins Tars". St. Petersburg Times.
- Frank S. Wright (November 2, 1923). "Florida Gators Have Close Call At Hands Wake Forest Outfit" (PDF). Old Gold and Black.
- "Florida Eleven Beats Wake Forest Outfit". The Index-Journal. October 28, 1923. p. 6. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Robert E. Wilder. Gridiron Glory Days: Football at Mercer, 1892-1942. p. 44.
- "Baptists, Undaunted After Reverse, Await Petrel Clash". Mercer Cluster. November 8, 1923. p. 6.
- "Gators Invade DeLand". Stetson Collegiate. 32 (14). December 12, 1923.
- University of Florida 1924, p. 101
- University of Florida 1924, p. 102
- "Florida Wages Uphill Fight Against Aggies, Tieing Score 13 to 13". The Tampa Tribune. November 25, 1923. p. 11. Retrieved November 7, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Surprises of South Upset Title Dope". The Monroe News-Star. November 30, 1923. p. 7. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Associated Press (November 17, 1923). "Florida Licks Alabama, 16-6". The Bee. p. 17. Retrieved August 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Mike Bynum. The Greatest Moments of Florida Gators Football. p. 4.
- ESPN college football encyclopedia. p. 275.
- Steve Rajtar. Gone Pro: Florida: Gator Athletes Who Became Pros. p. 30.
- McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
- Carlson 2007, pp. 28-30
- "Gators Trounce Alabama In Titular Grid Contest". The Evening Independent. November 30, 1923. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
- "Alabama vs.Florida".
- Bruce R. Jacob. "Remembering A Great Dean: Harold L. "Tom" Sebring" (PDF). Stetson Law Review. 30: 88.
- "Ten Thousand See Battle of Thrills as Crimson Tide Is Downed By Gator Clan, 16-6". The Orlando Sentinel. November 30, 1923. p. 5. Retrieved November 8, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- ""Baby" Gators Seeking To Test Miami High's Speed in Track and Field Meet". Miami News-Metropolis. April 10, 1924.
- "Billy Evans' All-Southern Honor Roll". Freeport Journal-Standard. December 20, 1923. p. 8. Retrieved July 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Wearers Of "F" On The Campus". The Florida Alligator. June 26, 1923. p. 3.