GatorZone.com Contributing Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The first season under Ray Graves was a tremendous success, with Florida going 8-2 and defeating Florida State, Georgia and Miami along the way.
The lone losses came against No. 18 Rice and No. 14 Auburn, with both being were close games that caught the attention of Associated Press voters who moved the Gators into the polls after their 22-14 victory over the Bulldogs.
So off to the Gator Bowl they went for the third time. Florida drew Baylor (8-2) in the third postseason appearance in UF history.
To the time capsule we go.
THE DATE: Dec. 31, 1960
IN THE HEADLINES THAT DAY
- The Year 1960 is bidding farewell, but not taking its troubles with it. Three continents were torn by strife as the new year approached. Blood was being spilled in Laos in Southeast Asia while the western world watched apprehensively to see if the communists were taking over still another country. In Europe, normally solid Belgium was racked by strikes and riots in protests against an austerity program. In Africa, there was no sign of letup in shootings and disorder in the Congo and Algeria.
- President elect John F. Kennedy named Averell Harriman, financier and former diplomat, to be his roving ambassador for “important special missions abroad.” In the domestic field, Kennedy called a conference to attack the farm crisis. It will be held in New York Jan. 5, with leaders of major farm organizations and Gov. Orville Freeman of Minnesota, Kennedy’s choice for secretary of agriculture, to sit in.
- In the midst of a world of activity that will keep him busy with news-making and appointments well into the new year, Kennedy took his wife on their first real outing since the birth of their son John. The president elect played a round of golf at Palm Beach Country Club while Mrs. Kennedy followed in an electric cart.
- The Houston Oilers were a touchdown favorite to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in the inaugural AFL Championship Game.
IN THE THEATERS
“Swiss Family Robinson” starring James McArthur
“The Grass is Greener” starring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons
“Spartacus” -- starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis
ON THE TUBE
“The Andy Griffith Show”
“Father Knows Best”
ON THE RADIO
(Billboard’s Top 3 songs of 1960)
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley
“Stay” by Maurice Williams and Zodiacs
“Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles
3-bedroom, 2-bath home (avg. cost): $12,700
Jaguar E Type: $5,990
Polaroid camera: $93.45
23-inch television: $219.95
Ticket to “The Music Man” on Broadway: $8.95
THE GATOR BOWL SET-UP
The pre-game hype focused on Baylor, making their fifth bowl appearance and first since ’56, and its red-hot quarterback Bobby Ply.
How great was Ply playing when he arrived in Jacksonville?
Over the previous three games -- victories over USC, Southern Methodist and the same Rice squad that shut out the Gators 10-0 earlier in the season -- Ply had completed 17 of 24 passes for the wide-open Baylor offense. Against Rice, Ply and the Bears erupted for a 3-play, 75-yard drive in just three minutes that still had the folks buzzing back in Waco.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly the “RG3” version of Baylor, but you get the idea.
The Gators surely did and the expectations of the first meeting between the two teams were for a high-scoring affair with each side possibly scoring two touchdowns, even with the rain that figured to fall.
The game would be played on Ray Graves’ 42nd birthday.
Tailback Ronnie Goodwin ran for a touchdown and Larry Travis recovered a Bears fumble in the end zone, but it was an even bigger Bear blunder that allowed the Gators to escape the 16th Gator Bowl with a 13-12 victory before a record crowd of 50,112 that witnessed one of the wildest finishes in the game’s history.
Baylor quarterback Ronnie Stanley hit receiver Ronnie Goodwin with a 47-yard pass to set up Ronnie Bull’s 3-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to play and drawing the Bears to within a point of tying the game.
[Note: Was Ronnie the only name given to babies in Texas back then?]
Anyway, Baylor coach John Bridgers, with his kicker (Ronnie Something, probably) having missed a point-after earlier in the game, opted to gamble and go for the win. Bobby Ply’s two-point conversion toss into the end zone hit Goodwin, the Southwest Conference’s top pass-catcher, in the hands, but the ball fell to the ground and Florida held on for the win.
The Gators defense, sparked by senior guard Vic Miranda, halted a 75-yard drive by Baylor on the half-yard line in the first quarter, then set the stage for two second quarter touchdowns.
Goodman ripped through the middle for three yards for the Gators' first touchdown after senior guard Chet Collins recovered a fumble by Bull on the Bears' 20 yard line.
Bill Cash made the PAT after the first score, which proved to be the difference -- and that difference proved to be enough for tempers to flair late in the game, with a fight breaking out in the final minute.
UF quarterback Larry Libertore was named MVP for the Gators for directing the two touchdown drives, while Ply, who helped set a bowl record with 211 passing yards, was honored for the Bears.
IN THEIR WORDS
“I should have had it. The world just fell in.”
--Ronnie Goodwin on the dropped two-point conversion.
“It was a wonderful way to end the season. The fans must have got a lot of thrills, but it was tough on us.”
-- UF coach Ray Graves
“My three main regrets are the three times we fumbled. But football is not what you do, it’s how you react as the game is played. I’m proud of my boys and the way they came back after trailing 13-0.”
-- Dejected Baylor coach John Bridgers, with his head bowed.
On the fight:
Bridgers: “I want to emphasize we had to nothing to do with it. We haven’t been in a fight this season and we had absolutely nothign to do with this one.”
Graves: “I don’t know who started it and I don’t blame anyone for something like that in the heat of the battle. Neither team is the type to fight. It’s just something that happened.”