Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

1923 Florida Gators football team

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Conference  Southern Conference
Assistant coach  Tom Sebring
Assistant coach  George Weber
Head coach  James Van Fleet
Assistant coach  Everett Yon
1923 Florida Gators football team
1923 record  6–1–2 (1–0–2 3rd SoCon)

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.

Before the season

The 1923 team was built on sophomores. The 1922 Florida freshmen won the southern crown for freshmen squads. The team included Cy Williams, Goldy Goldstein, Edgar Jones, and Bill Middlekauff.

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."


Primary source: 2015 Florida Gators Football Media Guide.

Week 1: at Army

In the season's first game, the Gators to the surprise of many held coach John McEwan's Army team scoreless in the first half, but managed to lose the game 20–0 in the second.

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 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

In the seventh week of play, Florida rolled up the largest score of the season on the Florida Southern Moccasins in Lakeland, 53–0.

Week 8: Mississippi A&M

The Gators and coach Earl Abell's Mississippi A&M Aggies fought to a 13–13 tie. Bill Middlekauff made the tying score. Ark Newton had a 96-yard punt, topping his previous record of 92. The Aggies also tied conference champion Vanderbilt.

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."


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.

Depth chart

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.

Coaching staff

  • Head coach: James Van Fleet
  • Assistants: Tom Sebring, Everett Yon, George Weber, Rex Farrior (freshmen)
  • Manager: Frank Evans
  • References

    1923 Florida Gators football team Wikipedia

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