Steve Spurrier stirred up most of the Dallas Cowboys with a comment he made 10 months ago.
For Emmitt Smith, the motivation to beat the Washington Redskins' coach began in 1989, when he was a junior at Florida.
The payback provided a new spin to what's becoming a redundant storyline: Dallas beating Washington.
The Cowboys won 27-20 Thursday, beating the Redskins for the 10th straight time and turning what once was the league's most bitter rivalry into its most lopsided. No other team has won as many in a row against another team.
Smith led the way with 144 yards rushing, his most in two years. Roy Williams returned an interception for a touchdown late in the third quarter, then Joey Galloway strutted into the end zone with the go-ahead score early in the fourth.
"We said all along how much we respect them and what Spurrier has going," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "That made that effort from our players all the more sweeter."
The streak is remarkable, considering the Cowboys (5-7) are only 33-48 against the rest of the league during the span, which began in November 1997.
Spurrier vowed things would change when he was hired in January, even promising owner Dan Snyder the game ball from his first victory over Dallas. A clip of that comment was played inside Texas Stadium just before kickoff, drawing boos that quickly turned to cheers when the screen turned black except for the words, "Not Today Steve!"
"No game balls on this side," said Spurrier, noting that the teams play again Dec. 29 in Washington. "Hopefully we'll give them a little better test next time."
Smith's bitterness toward Spurrier dates to college. He had a year of eligibility left when Spurrier took over the Gators, and the coach hardly made an effort to convince him to come back for his senior year.
Slights, real or perceived, have driven Smith to the top of the NFL rushing list, and the chance to prove this point fueled his best day since Dec. 10, 2000, when had 150 yards against -- who else? -- the Redskins.
Smith had seven runs of at least 11 yards, upping his career total to 17,021, despite bruising his hand and straining his neck. This was the 76th 100-yard game of his career, tying Barry Sanders for second-most in league history, one behind the record held by Walter Payton.
"You start adding elements like Spurrier, the Skins -- it makes it more special," Smith said. "I knew I was having a good game."
After a first quarter that showed why both teams are among the bottom six offenses in the league, the game featured a little of everything: a blocked punt, blocked field goal, missed extra point, an interception returned for a touchdown and a missed field goal.
There was a bit of the wacky, too: Washington had to have its kicker punt because the punter broke his nose, while Dallas ran out of offensive linemen after losing two starters to injuries within three snaps.
Things were looking good for Washington (5-7) when Danny Wuerffel threw his third touchdown pass for a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter. The scores came over four drives, with the only exception a two-play, clock-killing series at the end of the first half.
But the Redskins missed the extra point, and little went right for them again.
On third-and-12 from the 1, Wuerffel threw a pass that bounced off the hands of running back Kenny Watson and straight to Williams. Although the Cowboys still trailed 20-17, they had the momentum.
"You could look in their eyes and see they were deflated," Dallas defensive lineman La'Roi Glover said.
Billy Cundiff missed a 37-yarder that would have tied it, but on the next drive Chad Hutchinson hit Galloway on a crossing route. He broke so free from the coverage that he was able to slowly walk the final 5 yards. Cundiff added a 42-yarder with 4:23 left.
The Redskins had second-and-1 from the Dallas 34 after that but turned it over on downs. The game ended with the Cowboys intercepting a heave from rookie Patrick Ramsey, who replaced Wuerffel on that play because of a head injury.
Hutchinson became the sixth Dallas quarterback to rack up a victory during the streak -- the longest for either team in the series' 85-game history -- by going 12-of-25 for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Hutchinson guided the league's lowest-scoring team to its most points this season, and its first NFC East victory.
Wuerffel was 21-of-36 for 243 yards with three TDs and three interceptions. He hadn't thrown a touchdown pass since 1998 and had only nine in his previous 20 games.
Cowboys Topple Redskins- Again
CowboysHQ Top Stories
Cowboys 1st +10: Combine Crunch To NFL DraftEach weekend I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. The NFL Scouting Combine is next weekend and I share my memories of my time in Indianapolis in this edition of First and…
StarCast: Dishing On Cowboys Week (+ Summer)StarCAST: Dishing On The Cowboys Week - And The Cowboys Summer
CowboysHQYesterday at 12:36 AM
Cowboys Elliott 'Detained By Police'? NopeDallas Cowboys Star Ezekiel Elliott 'Detained By Police'? Nope - But The Scrutiny Is Never-Ending
CowboysHQWednesday at 6:48 AM
Cowboys STARCast: Cavanaugh On The NFL DraftCowboys STARCast: Jeff Cavanaugh Joins The CHQ Podcast To Talk NFL Draft.
CowboysHQTuesday at 4:15 PM