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All American Bowl : Emmitt Smith and Florida Overtake Illinois, 14-10

December 30, 1988|Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Emmitt Smith wouldn't mind playing all his football games here.

Twice he has visited Legion Field, and both times Smith has been the key to Florida victories.

Smith scored twice Thursday night to give the Gators a 14-10 victory over Illinois in the 12th All American Bowl.

Last season, in his third game as a freshman, Smith ran for 224 yards as Florida defeated Alabama.

Against Illinois, he picked up 159 yards in 28 carries and was named the game's most valuable player.

"We need to move my home games over here," Smith said, shortly after his coach, Galen Hall, said almost same thing.

"I think he might want to play all his games here," Hall said.

Smith, Hall said, "has that uncanny vision to find the cracks."

Smith scored on the game's first play and then rallied Florida for the winning score. The Gators, of the Southeastern Conference, moved to 7-5, while Illinois, of the Big Ten, fell to 6-5-1.

Illinois Coach John Mackovic said: "Smith has great speed. He is an outstanding runner. At the end of the game, he was at his very best."

Hall said: "Illinois is a very tough team. We had to earn the win; they didn't give it to us. They played outstanding defense all night. They just gave up a couple of big plays at the wrong moments."

Smith's winning 2-yard run around right end came with 4:28 left, shortly after Doug Higgins had given Illinois its only lead with a 44-yard field goal.

With Florida's defense pressuring quarterback Jeff George, Owen Bartruff picked off a pass at the Illinois 26, setting up the Gators for the winning touchdown.

Three plays later Smith, helped by a block by quarterback Kyle Morris, ran 16 yards to the Illini 2. He scored untouched on the next play.

Florida's Kerry Watkins returned the opening kickoff 29 yards to the Gators' 45. On the first play from scrimmage, Smith broke clear over left tackle and raced 55 yards to score with only 19 seconds gone.

Illinois then moved from its 34 to the Florida 2. But George's pass into the end zone was intercepted by Richard Fain.

The Gators gave it right back, though. Two plays later, Steve Glasson intercepted for Illinois on the Gators' 30, and Keith Jones ran for the score on the next play to tie the game, 7-7.

George completed 20 of 36 passes for 194 yards but had 2 interceptions and was sacked 4 times for minus-50 yards.

Jones gained 88 yards rushing on 18 carries.

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