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Cowboys Spurrier-ed On to Win

November 29, 2002|From Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — Steve Spurrier stirred up most of the Dallas Cowboys with a comment he made 10 months ago.

For Emmitt Smith, the motivation to beat the Washington Redskins' coach began in 1989, when he was a junior at Florida.

The payback provided a new spin to what's becoming a redundant story line: Dallas beating Washington.

The Cowboys won 27-20 Thursday, beating the Redskins for the 10th consecutive time and turning what once was the league's most bitter rivalry into its most lopsided. No other team has won as many in a row against another team.

Smith led the way with 144 yards rushing, his most in two years. Roy Williams returned an interception for a touchdown late in the third quarter, then Joey Galloway strutted into the end zone with the go-ahead score early in the fourth.

"We said all along how much we respect them and what Spurrier has going," Cowboy owner Jerry Jones said. "That made that effort from our players all the more sweeter."

The streak is remarkable, considering the Cowboys (5-7) are only 33-48 against the rest of the league during the span, which began in November 1997.

Spurrier vowed things would change when he was hired in January, even promising owner Dan Snyder the game ball from his first victory over Dallas. A clip of that comment was played inside Texas Stadium just before kickoff, drawing boos that quickly turned to cheers when the screen turned black except for the words, "Not Today Steve!"

"No game balls on this side," said Spurrier, noting that the teams play again Dec. 29 in Washington. "Hopefully we'll give them a little better test next time."

Smith's bitterness toward Spurrier dates to college. He had a year of eligibility left when Spurrier took over the Gators, and the coach hardly made an effort to convince him to come back for his senior year.

Slights, real or perceived, have driven Smith to the top of the NFL rushing list, and the chance to prove this point fueled his best day since Dec. 10, 2000, when he had 150 yards against -- who else? -- the Redskins.

Smith had seven runs of at least 11 yards, upping his career total to 17,021, despite bruising his hand and straining his neck. This was his 76th 100-yard game, tying Barry Sanders for second-most in league history, one behind Walter Payton.

"You start adding elements like Spurrier, the 'Skins -- it makes it more special," Smith said. "I knew I was having a good game."

After a first quarter that showed why both teams are among the bottom six offenses in the league, the game featured a little of everything: a blocked punt, blocked field-goal attempt, missed extra-point try, an interception returned for a touchdown and a missed field-goal attempt.

There was a bit of the wacky too: Washington had to have its kicker, James Tuthill, punt because the punter, Bryan Barker, broke his nose.

Things were looking good for Washington (5-7) when Danny Wuerffel threw his third touchdown pass for a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter. The scores came over four drives, with the only exception a two-play, clock-killing series at the end of the first half.

But the Redskins missed the extra-point attempt.

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