GAINESVILLE — Sophomore defensive back Amari Burney clutched the football laying on Florida Field like it was a check for a million dollars.
One by one players in orange and white and others in blue started piling on top of him. But he never budged.
His fumble recovery was one of a few crucial plays for Florida in its 34-3 win over the Tennessee Vols on Saturday afternoon.
“Coach (Dan Mullen) harps on that,” he said. “No loafing, you gotta get to the ball.”
The play prompted a scoring drive of eight plays and 64 yards, bringing his team up 31-3 with just over 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The drive was capped off by a season-first touchdown for Dameon Pierce.
The big plays for Burney, who graduated from Calvary Christian, didn’t start there though.
In the third quarter, Burney nabbed his first college interception, a sideline pass from Tennessee’s Brian Maurer on third and 10. He didn’t gain any yards on the play, but it put a stop to any kind of momentum the Vols were hoping to build on the drive.
“(Cornerback) Marco (Wilson), he made a great play, I’m going to give that all to him,” Burney said. “But he came up, hit the ball, and the ball’s in the air. They say, ‘See ball, get ball,’ so I dove for it and got it.”
Burney also finished with five tackles, a career high.
“He brought a great depth,” Wilson said. “I was happy for him.”
Burney had missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He knew going into this week that he would get the chance to play, but the focus was getting his body right. And rust wasn’t on the mind.
“I made a couple of mistakes out there, plays that I could have made that I missed,” he said, “but it’s all about going back into the film room and next week, I’ll get it right.”
Same old Spurrier
“Head Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier didn’t shy away from trolling college and NFL teams in the state during his almost 15-minute media conference at halftime.
When asked about Washington State coach Mike Leach: “I saw him briefly last week … just said hello to Coach Leach. Somebody’s gonna hire Mike Leach. Let’s hope it’s not FSU.”
He also had some insight on which team was worse: the 1976 Buccaneers (he played on that 0-14 team) or the 2019 Dolphins (currently 0-2).
“The ’76 Bucs acted like they were trying, anyway.”
He quickly added that the Alliance of American Football’s Orlando Apollos — which he coached to a 7-1 record before the league folded due to financial problems — could probably beat the Dolphins — and the Jets, too.
James “Jimmy” Dunn, 81, died Wednesday night after complications from a recent hip replacement surgery.
The Tampa native competed at Hillsborough High before playing at Florida from 1956-58. He took a coaching job with the Gators under coach Ray Graves from 1960-63.
In ’64, he left for an offensive coordinator job with Tennessee, where he would serve on coach Doug Dickey’s staff until 1969.