Florida vs. Florida State: Most Tense Moments in the Heated Football Rivalry
In an article last week we looked at Florida's biggest rivals, arriving at the conclusion that Florida State was the Gators' largest adversary. The recent parity in the series, the hatred between the two fan bases and the close proximity of the two schools all combine to make this rivalry something special.
The series dates back to 1958, and the two schools have played every single season since that first date. The Gators lead the series, 33-21-2.
There are many factors that weigh into why this rivalry is so heated. For starters, both schools compete for the top talent in the state. Most of the players that end up at either school have either played with or against each other their entire lives, and rivalries from high school can carry over to college.
Additionally—though not in recent history—this annual matchup has often held national championship implications. Both Florida and Florida State have gone into the last weekend in November with dreams of a National Championship, only to have those dreams dashed by their rival.
With such a long, storied history, there have been moments that stick out above all others as the most tense moments in the series. Let's take a look at the top 10.
10. 2011: Matt Elam Body Slams Jermaine Thomas
Matt Elam was the hottest topic on Gator and Seminole blogs during the 2010 recruiting cycle. Elam initially committed to Florida, then changed his mind and committed to Florida State...only to change his mind once more and enroll early at Florida.
The close relationship Elam had with the university brought an added level of emotion to the game for him, and he let it get the best of him in last season's matchup.
After a short reception by Jermaine Thomas, Elam wrapped the receiver up by the sideline. As the two players went out of bounds, Elam lifted Thomas up and body slammed the receiver out-of-bounds. The play drew a 15 yard personal foul and caused Greg Reid to get in the face of Elam. Both Elam and Reid had to be restrained after almost throwing down near the FSU sideline.
The bad blood between these two teams runs thick and even though neither team was ranked, the intensity was as high as ever.
9. 2008: "The Soak at Doak"
Percy Harvin is helped off the field after spraining his ankle in the second quarter.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The Gators were flying high coming into their matchup with the Seminoles in 2008. Following a week four loss that led to a speech known in Gainesville as "The Promise", the Gators won seven straight games, outscoring their opponents 369-82 along the way.
The Gators had just one game standing in the way of a trip to the SEC championship game and a chance to play for the national title.
Of course, that game was against FSU...and Mother Nature would make things interesting.
Tallahassee was hit with torrential rain that caused the endzone paint to run and the playing surface slick to the point where players were sliding another 10 yards after being tackled.
While the win was never in doubt and Florida clearly had the better team this year, every Gator fan had a lump in their throat, praying that the Gators would just get out of Tallahassee healthy.
Percy Harvin would go down awkwardly and sustain a high ankle sprain in the second quarter. The injury would cost him the SEC championship game and would keep him from playing at 100 percent in the National Championship.
While the injury was hard to stomach, it was the reaction of the crowd in Tallahassee that really made the moment tense. When it was clear that Harvin was injured and wasn't getting up after the tackle, the stadium erupted with cheers that left Gator fans with a sour taste in their mouths.
8. 2004: "Ron Zook Field"
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
One coach was being honored by having the field dedicated in his name, the other was coaching his last game as a lame duck.
Following Steve Spurrier at Florida is no easy feat. Spurrier brought a feeling of entitlement, and Gator fans got used to being the top dog in the SEC. So when Ron Zook took over in 2002 and went 8-5 in back to back seasons, his seat turned red hot going into year three.
Following another disappointing start in 2004 which culminated with a loss to Mississippi State, Zook was fired but allowed to stay on to coach the remaining games in the regular season, but not the bowl game. This meant that the Zooker's final game would be in Tallahassee on the night where the field was to be named "Bobby Bowden Field."
The Gators scored first and would never trail in the game, going on to win 20-13.
Although Zook was not a fan favorite, his players loved him and carried him off of the field after the game. Beating the Seminoles on the night where the field was being dedicated to Bowden has led Gator fans to call the game and the field turf in Tallahassee "Ron Zook Field."
7. 1994: "The Choke at Doak"
For three quarters the Gators were in cruise control, and Gator fans were already thinking about where to party after the game. With a 31-3 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, the game was in the bag.
Or so the Gators thought.
The Seminoles would score 28 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to tie the Gators in Tallahassee. The Gators' collapse in the fourth quarter has led the game to be nicknamed "the Choke at Doak," and is truly one of the darkest moments in Gator football history.
6. 1995: "Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter"
Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images
Following "The Choke at Doak," the Gators got a shot at redemption, as the stars aligned and the two teams would meet in the 1995 Sugar Bowl.
Rematches can be tricky, especially when the first game happened just over a month prior.
This game was different. Before kickoff, the scoreboard in the Superdome read "31-31" and had the quarter designated as "5." This game would finally settle the score after the two teams played to a tie in Tallahassee.
Both teams came out ready, but the Seminoles' 17-point second quarter proved too much for the Gators to overcome. The 'Noles would go on to win the game 23-17, and can lay claim to winning the "Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter."
5. 2003: "Swindle in the Swamp"
Following the game some Florida players took exception to several FSU players jumping up and down on the "F" at midfield. So much so that a fight ensued and had to be broken up by coaches, and the Gators had to watch as 'Nole players walked off the field with a Gator head.
This was not the first time that the rivalry has come to fisticuffs—and I doubt it will be the last.
4. 1998: Pre-Game Fight
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Similar to 2003, a fight broke out between the two teams in 1998. Only this time the teams didn't let a silly football game get in the way—they started fighting even before the coin toss.
In a momentary lapse of judgment, Florida's starting safety Tony George allowed two walk on players who weren't even dressed out for the game to get under his skin. George retaliated to their taunts, and all three players were ejected from the game.
During the fight it was alleged that Florida quarterback, Doug Johnson, threw a ball at Bobby Bowden. Johnson would later apologize to Bowden, but claim that he wasn't targeting the head coach and simply threw the ball to nobody in particular.
The Seminoles defense was too much for the Gators offense. The Gators were held scoreless in the second half, and the 'Noles would go on to win 23-12.
3. 1996: No. 1 vs. No. 2
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1996 was the first and only time that Florida and Florida State came into their annual matchup as the top two teams in the nation.
The Gators came into Tallahassee as the No.1 rated team in the nation and favorites to beat the No. 2 ranked Seminoles, but it was the 'Noles that got off to a hot start.
After stopping the Gators first drive of the game, the 'Noles blocked a punt, which resulted in a touchdown—and before you knew it, Florida was down 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Gators would make a comeback but fall just short, losing the game, 21-24.
After the game, Steve Spurrier created headlines when he accused the FSU defense of taking "cheap shots" at starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Bobby Bowden would later admit that his team would "hit until the echo of the whistle".
But, it would not be the last time these two faced off that season...
2. 1997: "The Greatest Game Ever Played in the Swamp"
The video is just over 10 minutes long, but definitely worth the watch.
Not only did Florida State come into Gainesville the top ranked team in the nation, but they were also a heavy favorite to beat the Gators in the Swamp.
While the game didn't turn out to be the blowout that Vegas predicted, for three quarters it seemed like the Seminoles would escape this game and play for a national championship.
The 'Noles drove down inside the Gators five yard line but settled for a field goal, leaving the door open for the Gators.
Doug Johnson would hit Jacquez Green on first down for a 62 yard gain, and Fred Taylor would carry the ball two more times to get the go-ahead score in his final home game as a Gator.
With time still on the clock, the game was far from over. Dwayne Thomas iced it with an interception at the 1:06 mark, and Florida was able to kneel on the ball to end "the Greatest Game Ever Played in The Swamp."
1. 1997: Sugar Bowl Rematch for the National Championship
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The loss at the end of the season seemingly ended Florida's hopes of playing for a national championship. Florida did what they needed to do in beating Alabama in the SEC championship game, but needed a little help from the Big 12. Texas upset then third ranked Nebraska, which set up another UF-FSU rematch in the Superdome.
Following No. 2 Arizona State falling to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, the rematch took on a whole new meaning: This time it would be for a National Championship.
Steve Spurrier caused quite a stir after the first game, complaining about FSU's defense taking "cheap shots" and hitting Danny Wuerffel late. Spurrier continued his crusade in the weeks leading up to the game.
The Gators never trailed and eventually turned a close game into a blowout, scoring twice in the second, third and fourth quarters on their way to the school's first National Championship and a 52-20 rout.