Florida Gators Highs and Lows, Part III: The Urban Meyer Era
If you would like to read the introduction to this series, click here.)
About this time last year, I started my Florida Gators Highs and Lows series by detailing the best and worst moments during Steve Spurrier's and Ron Zook's tenure at Florida.
After a long hiatus, I have decided to finally complete the series by bringing you both the best and the worst moments of the Urban Meyer era at Florida through the 2008 season.
Five Worst Moments
Honorable Mention: Hail to the Victors
Florida's performance on both offense and defense in the Capital One Bowl was not the best way to end the 2007 season for the Gators.
Florida gave up 41 points to a Michigan team that wanted that game much more than Meyer's Gators.
The game ended with the offense's inability to manage a completion on the final drive, epitomizing the frustration and growing pains endured by the young 2007 Gator team.
5. Rolled by the Tide
The honeymoon between Meyer and the Florida Gators was officially over.
The Gators looked dysfunctional on both sides of the ball throughout the game, catapulting Mike Shula and Alabama to the front of what would be a tight race for the SEC West in 2005.
However, Alabama's 31-3 victory over the Gators was marred by an injury to star wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, and he would never fully recover from the setback of his injury.
4. War Damn Eagle!
For some reason, Meyer cannot figure out the Auburn Tigers.
In his debut against Auburn as Florida's head coach, the Gators lost to the Tigers 27-17 without giving up an offensive touchdown the entire game.
The Gators' frustrations with Auburn would continue in 2007. The vaunted Florida offense, which averaged 42.5 points per game in 2007, managed only 17 points against the Tigers in "The Swamp."
The Gators' 20-17 loss to Auburn marked the only home loss in Meyer's tenure at Florida.
3. Five Fourth-Down Conversions
Following a gut-wrenching loss to the Auburn Tigers in "The Swamp," the Gators went to Baton Rouge to face the No. 1 LSU Tigers.
Although the game started well, with Florida taking a 17-7 lead into halftime, it ended terribly, as the Gators turned the ball over twice in the second half.
As a result, the Bayou Bengals were able to snatch victory away from Meyer and Florida, converting on five fourth-down plays and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with only 1:06 left to play.
2. Losing to the Ol' Ball Coach
As the Gators went to Columbia in order to play former head coach Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks, they held a conference record of 4-2 and needed a victory to clinch the SEC East.
However, despite rallying back from a 17-point deficit in order to trail the Gamecocks 20-19 in the beginning of the second half, the Florida offense only managed three more points for the rest of the game and lost 30-22.
Not only did this loss allow the Georgia Bulldogs to play for the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome, but the sting of losing to Spurrier hurt the morale of Gator Nation.
1. The Celebration
Mark Richt wanted the Georgia Bulldogs to show some fire in the 2007 Florida-Georgia rivalry game, and he got his wish.
After Bulldog running back Knowshon Moreno plowed into the end zone for the game's first touchdown, the entire Georgia team rushed the field and danced around a stunned Gator defense.
Despite the best efforts of an injured Tim Tebow, Florida suffered a humiliating 42-30 defeat at the hand of its bitter rival.
It's Meyer's only loss to date against the "Big Three"—Florida State, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Five Best Moments
Honorable Mention: Urban Spurns Notre Dame to Take the Florida Job
Following the firing of Ron Zook, the Gators were searching for a top-notch football coach to help bring back the glory days of the Steve Spurrier Era.
Once Spurrier himself was out of the picture, Florida targeted Meyer, the head coach of the undefeated Utah Utes.
Meyer, who had coached at Notre Dame as an assistant earlier in his career, shocked the Fighting Irish by turning them down in favor of the Gators.
Losing out on the Urban Meyer sweepstakes led to Notre Dame's hiring of Charlie Weis—is there any question now on which school got the better coach?
5. Tim Tebow Becomes the First Sophomore to Win the Heisman Trophy
When Tim Tebow arrived on the Gainesville campus, he was immediately treated like a rock star and deservedly so.
The first season for Meyer's prized recruit as a starter saw No. 15 take the nation by storm, as Tebow racked up 4,181 yards of total offense and 55 touchdowns for the defending national champions.
Although the Gators finished with a disappointing 9-4 record, Florida fans were able to celebrate the school's first Heisman Trophy winner since Danny Wuerffel in 1996.
4. Domination of the "Big Three"
When Urban Meyer came to Florida, he set out on a mission to dominate the Georgia Bulldogs, the Florida State Seminoles, and the Tennessee Volunteers.
So far, Meyer had done just that, posting a record of 11-1 against the 'Dawgs, 'Noles, and Vols, averaging a lopsided 17-point advantage in each contest.
Whether this run of dominance will continue is yet to be determined, but it looks likely given Meyer's fiery, competitive nature and his relentless pursuit of victory.
3. SEC! SEC! SEC!
During Steve Spurrier's tenure at Florida, the Gators won five SEC Championships and made an appearance in the SEC Championship Game a yearly expectation in Gainesville.
However, when Ron Zook took over for Spurrier in 2002, Florida football suffered a major setback, and the SEC Championship Game was a mere dream for the Gator Nation.
Fortunately for the Gator faithful, Meyer has made the Gators a favorite in the SEC once again, winning two SEC Championships and finishing second in the SEC East twice.
2. 2008-2009 BCS National Champions
Facing arguably the greatest offensive juggernaut in college football history, the Gators had a tall task in playing the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS Championship Game in Miami.
However, with the heroic efforts of the injured Percy Harvin and a stellar performance by Brandon Spikes and the Gator defense, Florida was able to shut down the mighty Sooners.
The Gators' 24-14 victory gave them their second BCS National Championship in three seasons.
1. 2006-2007 BCS National Champions
While there was not much suspense in the Gators' 41-14 blowout of the Ohio State Buckeyes, the exhilaration of Meyer's first national title has yet to be matched.
Despite being labeled as heavy underdogs to the talent-laden Buckeyes, the resilience of much-maligned quarterback Chris Leak won out in the end in Glendale, Arizona.
The Florida defense harassed Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith throughout the game, as he was sacked five times and managed only 35 passing yards.
Winning the 2006 BCS National Championship re-established the Gators as a national power and was the beginning of Meyer's continually growing legend at Florida.
Urban Meyer is arguably the best coach in college football today, and he looks poised to contend for his third BCS National Championship this season as the head coach of the Florida Gators.
He has experienced a great deal of success early in his career and always puts a winning team on the field—something that many schools can only dream about.
Are there any other events, good or bad, from the Urban Meyer Era that have been left out? Voice your opinion below.
Thanks for reading this series!
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