It’s been awhile, and to tell you the truth, I’ve been a little busy for the last several weeks learning the ins and outs of a new job (that will hopefully allow me to be home a little bit more). I’m back, though, and this post is dedicated to one of my favorite yearly events: the annual Florida-Georgia football game held in Jacksonville, Florida, on the St. Johns River (trivia question: Why does the St. Johns River flow north? Because Georgia sucks!!).
I’ve been to this game ten times in the past, and there is no atmosphere like it in college football. Throw out the records and the rankings every year; this is a true rivalry game, with two fan bases that gather every year as the temperatures start to dip in North Florida. There is drinking, tailgating, more drinking, trash-talking, a little bit MORE drinking, a few fights, and some more drinking (the historic moniker of this event is the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”). This is all before the game even starts! Tens of thousands of orange- and blue-clad members of Gator Nation pack EverBank Stadium with their red-and-black-wearing counterparts from Jawja; the entire stadium is split 50/50 among the fan bases, and it is LOUD!
The game has been played in Jacksonville almost every year since the 1930s (save for 1994-95, when it was played on both campuses), and is always touted as a neutral-site game, but let’s face it: Jacksonville is only a 90-minute drive from the University of Florida, and the game was played until 1993 in a stadium called the “Gator Bowl.” Still, the Bulldogs hold a slight advantage in the series, with the Gators winning 19 of the last 25 matchups. There has been a lot of heartache involved in this game, and some big moments from both teams:
*Heisman Trophy-winning QB Steve Spurrier’s loss to UGA in 1966, which cost the Gators their first-ever SEC title
*UF’s boneheaded “4th & Dumb” play that lost the 1976 matchup
*”Run, Lindsay, Run!” in 1980 that propelled UGA to a national title
*The 1985 game in which UF came in ranked #1 in the nation, and got flat whooped, 24-3
*The seven straight victories UF enjoyed over UGA from 1990-1996, when Steve Spurrier came home to coach the Gators, including:
-UF knocking off #4-ranked Georgia in 1992, 26-24, which helped UF claim the first SEC East title
-the infamous “Time-out Game” in 1993 when a Bulldog touchdown in the closing seconds was taken off the scoreboard thanks to a timeout called just before the snap by a smart freshman DB named Anthone Lott
-The Gators becoming the first opposing team to EVER score 50+ on UGA at Sanford Stadium in Athens in 1995
-UGA winning their 2nd straight over UF for the first time since the 1980s, and ruining the Gators’ perfect 7-0 record, in 2012; this loss kept Florida out of the SEC Championship game
Even when both teams are mediocre, with seemingly NOTHING to play for halfway through the season, they still have pride, and this game brings it out. In 2010, UF had lost 3 straight and was reeling; UGA was also in the midst of a disappointing campaign…and that game became an instant classic, with Florida prevailing in OT, 34-31.
And so we come to this year’s game. UGA came in ranked #9, with the inside track to the SEC East title and feeling pretty confident after impressive back-to-back games against Missouri and Arkansas.
Florida came in at 3-3, with the fan base demanding that head Coach Will Muschamp be replaced after yet another below-average start to a season (coincidentally, Muschamp played defensive back for Georgia from 1991-1994, never beat Florida as a player, and had lost three straight to UGA as the Gator head coach). And then this happened…
In a game that made no sense, UF was the bully, pushing ‘Dawgs all over the field to the tune of 418 yards rushing. Now, instead of Coach Boom (Muschamp’s nickname) being run out of Gainesville, the Georgia faithful are in a frenzy over Coach Mark Richt’s yearly flameout and the ineffective offensive playcalling of coordinator Mike Bobo. It’s interesting how things can change in just over three hours on a crisp November afternoon.
Obviously, this win was much-needed for Florida’s program, and should earn Will Muschamp the rest of the season, at the very least (and yes, I was one of the more vocal critics saying that he should have been fired after the dismal homecoming loss to Missouri two weeks ago). After that, who knows? I do think that yesterday’s win over the Gators’ biggest conference rival will provide the leverage needed to finish the season as UF’s head coach, and if the Gators could somehow win the next three games before heading to Tallahassee with a 7-3 record…
Before I get that far ahead, let’s get through the next few weeks first. Yesterday’s event showed once again that this game always lives up to the hype, and almost results in one-half of the stadium elated, and the other…not so much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have three years’ worth of pent-up frustration to get out: