1923 Florida Gators football team

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1923 Florida Gators football
Conference Southern Conference
1923 record 6–1–2 (1–0–2 SoCon)
Head coach James Van Fleet (1st season)
Offensive scheme Notre Dame Box
Captain W. M. Robinson
Home stadium Fleming Field
← 1922
1924 →
1923 Southern Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Washington & Lee + 4 0 1     6 3 1
Vanderbilt* + 3 0 1     5 2 1
Florida 1 0 2     6 1 2
VPI 4 1 0     6 3 0
Alabama 4 1 1     7 2 1
Maryland 2 1 0     7 2 1
Mississippi A&M 2 1 2     5 2 2
North Carolina 2 1 1     5 3 1
Georgia 3 2 0     5 3 1
Tennessee 4 3 0     5 4 1
Tulane 2 2 1     6 3 1
Clemson 1 1 1     5 2 1
Georgia Tech 0 0 4     3 2 4
NC State 1 4 0     3 7 0
Auburn 0 1 3     3 3 3
Kentucky 0 2 2     4 3 2
Virginia 0 3 1     3 5 1
LSU 0 3 0     3 5 1
Ole Miss 0 4 0     4 6 0
South Carolina 0 4 0     4 6 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
  • * – co-member of SIAA

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,[1] and 1–0–2 in the Southern Conference, placing third of twenty-one teams in the conference standings.[2]

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[edit]

The 1923 team was built on sophomores.[3] The 1922 Florida freshmen won the southern crown for freshmen squads.[4] 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."[5]


Date Opponent Site Result Attendance
October 6 at Army* The PlainWest Point, New York L 20–0  
October 13 at Georgia Tech Grant FieldAtlanta, Georgia T 7–7   12,000
October 19 Rollins* Fleming Field • Gainesville, Florida W 28–0  
October 27 Wake Forest Plant FieldTampa, Florida W 16–7   7,000
November 3 Mercer* Fleming Field • Gainesville, Florida (HC) W 19–7   5,000
November 10 Stetson* Fleming Field • Gainesville, Florida W 27–0  
November 17 vs. Florida Southern* Lakeland, Florida W 53–0  
November 24 Mississippi A&M Barrs Field • Jacksonville, Florida T 13–13  
November 29 at Alabama Rickwood Field • Birmingham, Alabama W 16–6   10,000
*Non-conference game.

Primary source: 2015 Florida Gators Football Media Guide.[1]

Season summary[edit]

Week 1: at Army[edit]

Week 1: Florida at Army
1 234Total
Florida 0 000 0
Army 0 0146 20

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.[6]

Edgar Garbisch missed two first-half field goals.[6] 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.[7]

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).[6]

Week 2: at Georgia Tech[edit]

Week 2: Florida at Georgia Tech
1 234Total
Florida 7 000 7
Ga. Tech 0 007 7

The Gators contest with coach Bill Alexander's Georgia Tech Golden Tornado brought interest after the prior week's game with Army.[8] 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.[9] The tie "knocked the Golden Tornado...off of its pedestal as the top team in Southern football."[10] The tie excited fans and "provided more positive national for Florida football than it had ever received."[10]

Bill Middlekauff

Florida scored after a 25-yard Ark Newton interception return.[10] A Newton pass to Edgar C. Jones then got the ball to Tech's 3-yard line.[11] From there, Bill Middlekauff hit the line for a touchdown.[9]

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).[12]

Week 3: Rollins[edit]

Week 3: Rollins at Florida
1 234Total
Rollins 0 000 0
Florida 21 070 28

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."[13]

Rollins did not manage a first down the entire first half.[14]

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).[14]

Week 4: Wake Forest[edit]

Week 4: Wake Forest at Florida
1 234Total
Wake 0 070 7
Florida 9 700 16


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.[16]

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).[15]

Week 5: Mercer[edit]

Week 5: Mercer at Florida
1 234Total
Mercer 7 000 7
Florida 0 766 19
  • Date: November 4
  • Location: Fleming Field
    Gainesville, FL
  • Game attendance: 5,000

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.[17] 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.[17] 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."[18]

Week 6: Stetson[edit]

Week 6: Stetson at Florida
1 234Total
Stetson 0 000 0
Florida 7 0137 27

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.[19] 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.[19]

Week 7: Florida Southern[edit]

In the seventh week of play, Florida rolled up the largest score of the season on the Florida Southern Moccasins in Lakeland, 53–0.[20]

Week 8: Mississippi A&M[edit]

Week 8: Mississippi A&M at Florida
1 234Total
Miss A&M 7 600 13
Florida 7 060 13

The Gators and coach Earl Abell's Mississippi A&M Aggies fought to a 13–13 tie. The Aggies also tied conference champion Vanderbilt.

In the first minutes of play, Luckett scored for Mississippi A&M. The Gators answered with a touchdown on a pass from Jones to Ark Newton. In the second quarter, from his own 1-yard line, Newton had a 96-yard punt, topping his previous record of 92. It went 65 yards in the air.[21][22]

The Gators failed to capitalize on the long punt, and fumbled at the 7-yard line on its next possession. After an exchange of punts, Luckett ran for 53 yards on a double pass play, setting up another Aggie touchdown.[22]

After another exchange of punts, two passes set up the tying score: Newton to Lightsey and Jones to Newton. Bill Middlekauff then made the tying score from the 5-yard line with four line plunges. Newton missed the extra point.[22]

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), Newton (left halfback), Pomeroy (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).[22]

Week 9: at Alabama[edit]

Week 9: Florida at Alabama
1 234Total
Florida 0 097 16
Alabama 0 600 6
  • Date: November 29
  • Location: Rickwood Field
    Birmingham, AL
  • Game attendance: 10,000
  • Game weather: Rain

On a muddy field with pools of water, the Gators upset[23] the previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide with a comeback, 16–6 victory on Thanksgiving Day,[24][25][26] putting the Florida program in the national spotlight for the first time.[27] 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.[28]

Florida back Edgar C. Jones scored all of his team's points.[29] 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.[30] 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.[30]

Edgar C. Jones.

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.[30] Pooley Hubert scored first.[31] 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.[28]

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.[30] Moments later Newton kicked a punt of 60 yards, from his own 20-yard line to the same of Alabama's.[28] Gillis botched the ensuing Alabama punt.[30] 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.[30] 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.[30]

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."[32]

The starting lineup was: Lightsey (left end), Williams (left tackle), Norton (left guard), Cornwall (center), Goldstein (right guard), Robinson (right tackle), Merrin (right end), Jones (quarterback), Newton (left halfback), Brown (right halfback), Middlekauff (fullback).[33]


Robbie Robinson, Goldy Goldstein and Ark Newton became the first Gators to make the composite All-Southern team.[34] Edgar C. Jones and Bill Middlekauff made Billy Evans's "Southern Honor Roll".[35] Robinson and Goldstein made Evans' National Honor Roll.


Depth chart[edit]

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.

Spec Lightsey (5)
Joe Merrin (1)
Cy Williams (6) Clyde Norton (3) Sam Cornwall (6) Goldy Goldstein (5) Robbie Robinson (6)
Horse Smith (2) Clyde Norton (1)
Goldy Goldstein (1)
Joe Merrin (5)
Spec Lightsey (1)
Edgar C. Jones (5)
Ark Newton (1)
Stewart Pomeroy (3)
Lawrence Case (1)
Dick Brown (1)
Ark Newton (1)
Ark Newton (3)
Dick Brown (2)
Bill Middlekauff (1)
Bill Middlekauff (5)
Edgar C. Jones (1)


Goldy Goldstein.
Captain Robinson.


Player Position Games
Hometown Prep school Height Weight Age
Sam Cornwall center
Goldy Goldstein guard Jacksonville, Florida Duval High 6'3" 210 19
Spec Lightsey end
Joe Merrin end
Clyde Norton guard
Robbie Robinson tackle Mobile, Alabama 6'0" 180 21
Horace Smith guard
Cy Williams tackle Sopchoppy, Florida 6'0" 200


Player Position Hometown Prep school Height Weight Age
Alexander guard
Boyd end
Ralph Champlin guard
Fowler guard
Hamilton end
Cadillac Harry guard
Hartridge end
Morris tackle
Mervin Mounts end
Nielsen end
Nolte center
Ezra Raasch guard
J. R. Rose end
Edgar Todd end
Towles end
Wyatt end


Ark Newton.


Player Position Games
Hometown Prep school Height Weight Age
Richard Brown halfback
Edgar C. Jones quarterback Jacksonville, Florida 19
Bill Middlekauff fullback Miami, Florida 6'2" 200 19
Ark Newton halfback Camden, Arkansas Camden High 6'1" 185 20
Stewart Pomeroy halfback


Player Position Hometown Prep school Height Weight Age
Osmond Bie halfback
Robert Brumby quarterback
Lawrence Case halfback
Flood halfback
J. Johnson halfback
Jack Matthews fullback
John Murphree quarterback
Owen Pittman halfback
Randall quarterback
Sibert halfback
George Stanley quarterback
Yetter halfback


Coaching staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 2015 Florida Gators Football Media Guide Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine., University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 107–108 (2015). Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  2. ^ 2009 Southern Conference Football Media Guide, Year-by-Year Standings, Southern Conference, Spartanburg, South Carolina, p. 74 (2009). Retrieved August 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Pete Norton (December 23, 1934). "Sports Outlook". St. Petersburg Times. 
  4. ^ Associated Press (December 1, 1922). "Florida Freshmen Claim The Crown". p. 6. Retrieved February 5, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ Newton, Virgil M. (September 19, 1923). "'Ark' Newton Ready To Go". St. Petersburg Times. 
  6. ^ a b c "Army Eleven Comes Strong At the End". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 7, 1923. p. 49. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ "Florida Defeated By West Point Team". Springfield Missouri Republican. October 7, 1923. p. 3. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ Lawrence Perry (October 12, 1934). "Game's For The Sake". Harrisburg Telegraph. p. 19. Retrieved September 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  9. ^ a b University of Florida, p. 99
  10. ^ a b c Carlson, p. 28
  11. ^ "Tech and Florida Tie at Seven-Seven In Hard Struggle". The Index Journal. October 14, 1923. p. 6. Retrieved July 27, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  12. ^ Woodruff 1928, p. 243
  13. ^ "[No title]". Stetson Collegiate. 32 (7). October 23, 1929. 
  14. ^ a b Virgil M. Newton (October 21, 1923). "Fighting 'Gators Nip Rollins Tars". St. Petersburg Times. 
  15. ^ a b Frank S. Wright (November 2, 1923). "Florida Gators Have Close Call At Hands Wake Forest Outfit" (PDF). Old Gold and Black. 
  16. ^ "Florida Eleven Beats Wake Forest Outfit". The Index-Journal. October 28, 1923. p. 6. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  17. ^ a b Robert E. Wilder. Gridiron Glory Days: Football at Mercer, 1892-1942. p. 44. 
  18. ^ "Baptists, Undaunted After Reverse, Await Petrel Clash". Mercer Cluster. November 8, 1923. p. 6. 
  19. ^ a b "Gators Invade DeLand". Stetson Collegiate. 32 (14). December 12, 1923. 
  20. ^ University of Florida, p. 101
  21. ^ University of Florida, p. 102
  22. ^ a b c d "Florida Wages Uphill Fight Against Aggies, Tieing Score 13 to 13". The Tampa Tribune. November 25, 1923. p. 11. Retrieved November 7, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  23. ^ "Surprises of South Upset Title Dope". The Monroe News-Star. November 30, 1923. p. 7. Retrieved August 21, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  24. ^ Associated Press (November 17, 1923). "Florida Licks Alabama, 16-6". The Bee. p. 17. Retrieved August 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  25. ^ Mike Bynum. The Greatest Moments of Florida Gators Football. p. 4. 
  26. ^ ESPN college football encyclopedia. p. 275. 
  27. ^ Steve Rajtar. Gone Pro: Florida: Gator Athletes Who Became Pros. p. 30. 
  28. ^ a b c McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
  29. ^ Carlson, pp. 28-30
  30. ^ a b c d e f g "Gators Trounce Alabama In Titular Grid Contest". The Evening Independent. November 30, 1923. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  31. ^ "Alabama vs.Florida". 
  32. ^ Bruce R. Jacob. "Remembering A Great Dean: Harold L. "Tom" Sebring" (PDF). Stetson Law Review. 30: 88. 
  33. ^ "Ten Thousand See Battle of Thrills as Crimson Tide Is Downed By Gator Clan, 16-6". The Orlando Sentinel. November 30, 1923. p. 5. Retrieved November 8, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  34. ^ ""Baby" Gators Seeking To Test Miami High's Speed in Track and Field Meet". Miami News-Metropolis. April 10, 1924. 
  35. ^ "Billy Evans' All-Southern Honor Roll". Freeport Journal-Standard. December 20, 1923. p. 8. Retrieved July 24, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  36. ^ "Wearers Of "F" On The Campus". The Florida Alligator. June 26, 1923. p. 3. 


  • Carlson, Norm (2007). University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators. Atlanta, Georgia: Whitman Publishing, LLC. ISBN 0-7948-2298-3. 
  • University of Florida (1924). The Seminole. 15. 
  • Woodruff, Fuzzy (1928). A History of Southern Football 1890–1928. 2.