300-yard passer merely ‘average’

By David Lance

Florida quarterback Shane Matthews completed 21-of-34 passes in his team’s 41-10 win over NIU Saturday.

The 6-3, 191-pound junior also threw two touchdowns and was never intercepted. He threw for at least 300 yards (336) for the eighth time in his college career—tying a Southeastern Conference record.

And he did it mostly in one half.

So, naturally, Matthews was not happy with his performance.

“I missed a lot of guys open, and made a lot of dumb throws when there were crucial third downs,” he said. “It wasn’t one of my better performances.

“I didn’t play well at all today, and I’m sure (Florida head) coach (Steve Spurrier) told you all that.”

He did.

“Shane was thinking about parties tonight,” Spurrier said. “I don’t know where his mind was.”

NIU starting linebacker Gerald Nickleberry said Matthews threw for so many yards because “he’s a passing QB. I don’t think his arm was as strong as everybody was saying. He was throwing a lot of wobbly balls.

“He’s average. He didn’t have any better arm or speed than any quarterback we’ve played.”

Matthews did make at least two decent plays. In the second quarter, he spotted wide receiver Harrison Houston break open at the goal line.

“We just ran everybody on go routes, and Harrison made a great catch in the end zone,” Matthews said.

The touchdown pass covered 18 yards.

On NIU’s 32-yard line later in the second quarter, Matthews found wide receiver Willie Jackson down the field for a TD.

“Willie Jackson made a good move at the line of scrimmage and got wide open down the middle and all I had to do was lay it out,” Matthews said. “He went out and got it.

“We wanted to go out and play well, but we didn’t. We just have to be thankful that we won. We have to put this behind us and get ready for Auburn (Florida’s opponent in two weeks).

“We didn’t look very sharp at all. We didn’t play well on any side of the ball, and special teams was terrible. It was just one of those days. We didn’t have much intensity. We’ve got a week off; I think that’s good. We’ll be ready for Auburn.”

Matthews did impress one person at the game.

“He’s a smart player,” NIU starting safety Tom Rhomberg said. “I’d say he was the best quarterback we’ve played all year.

“He adjusted to the defense well. He really has a knack for knowing which receiver is open.”