“They’re going for two!”
Paul Stewart, Buccaneers Review , published 2008

The two-point conversion was only introduced into the NFL in 1994. It has been a staple source of reference for coaches since then, as they consult charts to determine whether to go for two or not, at certain score situations.

The Bucs had their own point dilemma in 2005 when Jon Gruden called for a two-point conversion in a game against the Washington Redskins when trailing 35-34 late in the fourth quarter. But that call was mitigated by a penalty against the Redskins moving the ball much closer to the goal-line.

Back in 1995, in the first meeting between the Buccaneers and Jaguars, a similar situation occurred. The Jaguars scored a late touchdown and found themselves trailing 17-16. Surely Coach Tom Coughlin would send in kicker Mike Hollis to send the game to overtime?

The background
1995 was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first season in the NFL. But as often been written in NFL circles since then, they were not an expansion team in the same mould as the Bucs were in 1976. The salary cap and free agency made stocking a roster a lot easier than two decades before, and both the Jags and Panthers were competitive from a lot earlier on, than John McKay’s legendary 1976 team ever were.

There was the usual expansion draft prior to the season to stock the two new franchises, and the likes of former Buc RBs Mazio Royster and Reggie Cobb were Jacksonville selections, along with CB Rogerick Green. The first selection made by Tom Coughlin, was QB Steve Beurelein, who would go on to have a major impact on this Week 12 match-up in Tampa.

The Buccaneers were in the fourth year of Sam Wyche’s reign as head coach. They had led the NFC Central Division in mid-October with their “5-dash-2” mark as Wyche famously exclaimed after defeating the Minnesota Vikings in overtime. But three straight losses since then had seen them fall back before returning to the Old Sombrero for this encounter with their new in-state rivals.

The game
The Bucs jumped out to 10-0 and then 17-10 leads thanks in the main to RB Errict Rhett who reached three figures on the ground for the seventh time in his two-year NFL career. But the Jaguars fought back with a star of their own, TE Pete Mitchell who set career marks for both receptions (10) and (161) mainly against rookie defensive back Clifton Abraham.

Mitchell’s crowning moment came with 37 seconds left when he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from back-up QB Beurelein, who had replaced injured starter Mark Brunell at the start of the fourth quarter.

But Jaguars’ coach Tom Coughlin disdained potential tying extra point and went for two. “Why not?” said Fox commentator Bob Golic. “It’s a gutsy call.”

It did not pan out as Beurelein’s pass to Jimmy Smith in the left flat was ruled out of bounds and Buc fans around the stadium began to celebrate. “I think I personally would have kicked it” said Sam Wyche afterwards. “I thought they were moving the ball well.”

Trailing 17-16, the Jaguars had no alternative but to attempt an onside kick, and after Hollis’s bouncing ball ricocheted off Abraham of all people, Jacksonville had one last chance, But CB Martin Mayhew intercepted Beurelein’s pass and the Bucs ran out the clock to seal their narrow victory.

“We felt like somebody on the defense had to step up and do something, make a big play” Mayhew said later. “The Jaguars came right back at me with the same play they had beaten me on previously and I was just waiting on it.”

The aftermath
The Bucs finished up the 1995 season at 7-9 and Sam Wyche ultimately paid the price for four straight losing seasons by being replaced by Tony Dungy. The Jaguars went on to reach the AFC Championship Game the following season and currently lead the all-time regular season series with the Bucs 3-1.

But Errict Rhett summed up the feeling about the Florida rivalry after this victory. “This is like a state championship” the former Gator said. “Jacksonville beat Miami in pre-season and so did we. So we are the state champions and I want my ring.”