The 1976 Pre-season
The Bucs opened their history with a game in John McKay's old college stomping ground of the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Rams.
It wasn't close as the 26-3 score indicates but Pete Rajecki kicked the historic first points with an 18-yard fieldgoal and Parnell Dickinson did reach the endzone on a one-yard run around left end only for it to be called back for holding.
Steve Spurrier went 11 of 16 for 99 yards starting at quarterback with the coach's son, JK McKay catching three passes for 59 yards. Louis Carter led the ground game with 27 yards on five carries.
The following week saw a closer loss in Green Bay as the home team Packers prevailed 10-6. The offense took a step back with neither Spurrier nor Dickinson doing much through the air. Carter again led the ground game with 47 yards and former Gator Vince Hendrick weighed in with 35 more on 11 carries.
The first victory came in the confines of the Jacksonville Gator Bowl with a 17-3 decision over the Atlanta Falcons, a game watched by little over 11,000 people. Spurrier went 11 of 19 for 147 yards with TE Bob Moore leading the receiving corps with three catches for 42 yards. Essex Johnson had 47 yards on the ground with Carter adding another 44.
The first game in Tampa Stadium came the following week against Miami, a 28-21 game that had the crowd enthralled for so many reasons. Spurrier again started and had his best game of the pre-season, going 20 of 36 for 244 yards and two scores, the latter one of which went to WR Barry Burton from 26 yards out. Carter led the ground game with 77 yards on 13 carries.
The penultimate exhibition game was a 10-7 loss to Chicago in which the Bucs' score was a 92-yard kickoff return by Isaac Hagins who had just been signed to the squad. Spurrier went 16 of 26 for 129 yards with two picks, five of his passes being caught by WR Lee McGriff.
The final game was another loss, 24-13 to Cincinnati, but that featured another kickoff touchdown by Hagins, this one from 102 yards out. Essex Johnson had 62 yards against his old team and added 54 yards on three receptions, whilst Parnell Dickinson showed his mobility with 59 yards on the ground. Future Buc strike QB John Reaves had three touchdown passes for the Bengals.