Fans of College Football can be forgiven if their interest in Saturday’s Florida vs. Florida State game at the Swamp in Gainesville is tepid.
Casual college football fans may not even tune into Saturday’s Florida vs. Florida State football game at the Swamp in Gainesville.
A Florida win would be their sixth in a row in this storied rivalry.
But will FSU roll over, or could the Noles craft one of the biggest all-time upsets in NCAA history...or will Tim Tebow exit his stellar collegiate career having never lost to FSU?
On the surface, 11-0 Florida appears poised to cruise to an easy victory over the 6-5 Noles, setting up an epic rematch with Alabama for the SEC championship and the right to play for the mythical national championship.
FSU would love to spoil Florida’s perfect season and national championship aspirations.
Urban Meyer recruited all of FSU’s players…he knows they’re talented. Many of the players in this rivalry grew up playing with…and against each other.
The 2009 game in the Swamp is most likely Bobby Bowden's last game in Gainesville. It may be his last game ever in this rivalry. His players will play their best game of the season.
This is also Tim Tebow’s last game at Florida Field. It is Senior Day. Expect to be surprised, because no matter how much one team is favored in this rivalry, often the other program makes a major statement to the nation.
Like in 1971…
In 1971, Florida was 0-5 and unranked.
Florida State was a perfect 5-0 and ranked 16th in the country.
The night before the game, Florida captain Tommy Durrance called a team meeting after a prominent former Florida player told Durrance that Florida had a leadership problem.
Durrance said the team sat in a circle in the end zone at 10:30 p.m. and seniors explained to the underclassmen how important this game was and how we “just could not lose to FSU.”
There was a feeling among fans of both schools that FSU wasn’t as good, nor Florida as bad as their records indicated. FSU’s opponents were 7-20, while the Gators' opponents were 22-7 at the time of the game.
Still, the Noles were favored by 14 points.
Friday before the game, quarterback John Reaves was quoted as saying, “We don’t know how to lose to FSU.”
The Florida vs. FSU game has always been intense. A St. Petersburg Times Article on Oct. 16, 1971 described some of the antics of the teams, “Sometimes the competition has been too fierce. FSU in particular, has been known to come out screaming and whooping and promptly fallen flat on its face.
Four years ago, Florida adopted a two-by-two ‘death march’ entrance to present a cool contrast to the Seminoles’ acrobatics.”
When the teams finally met at Florida Field, Florida played ball control by establishing an effective running game.
Florida got its first rushing touchdown of the year, when Mike Rich scored.
Senior FSU tailback Arthur Munroe fumbled three times. His first fumble was plucked from the air by Jimy Barr and returned 26 yards for a touchdown.
The play that went against FSU and blocked the Noles from coming back was a long third-down pass from Gary Huff to Rhett Dawson.
Dawson dived forward, grasped the ball in both outstretched hands but lost it as he hit the Astroturf at the Florida 30.
There were 43 seconds to play and a completion would have put FSU in range of a winning field goal by barefoot kicker Frank Fontes. But the field goal attempt was not to be, and the Gators held on and upset the Noles.
Unranked Florida visiting 11th ranked FSU.
A St. Petersburg Times article from Oct. 6, 1972 perfectly encapsulates the essence of the 1972 contest,
“Perennial independent college football power Florida State is almost always playing in a bowl game: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Gator Bowl, Sun Bowl, Futility Bowl…
That’s the annual meeting with Florida, the opponent the unbeaten Seminoles (4-0) have on their hands at home Saturday.”
FSU entered the game as the nation’s top passing team behind quarterback Gary Huff.
Huff led the nation in completion percentage (56.9%), led in total yards (1,119), led the nation with 11 TD’s and averaged of 14.3 yards per completion.
Huff also led in total offense with an average of 269 yards per game.
A very young Florida team started 4 only seniors, while FSU started 12. Florida started 9 sophomores in their previous game against Mississippi State.
Florida only played two games before this contest, FSU played four games. Florida was a 17-point underdog.
Florida forced 10 turnovers: six fumbles, and four interceptions by Gary Huff.
Despite many Seminole mistakes, Florida only led 14-7 at halftime. Florida went on to win in convincing fashion, 42-13.
Doug Dickey earned UPI National Coach of the Week for the upset.
No. 11 FSU: 13
No. 15 FSU 10
Florida had been projected as candidates for a national title at the beginning of the season. They would not even win the SEC championship.
Florida coach Charlie Pell was asked if he was surprised FSU won eight games going into the Florida game despite its schedule.
Pell disgustedly said, “Despite their what?!” Pell pointed out that the Noles had victories over Cincinnati, Southern Illinois, East Carolina, South Carolina and Louisville which have a combined 28-26 record.
Southern Illinois which lost 59-8 to FSU, beat West Texas State 17-13, the Gators beat West Texas State 77-13.
Pell said this is his best offensive team while at Florida.
FSU entered the game second in the nation in total yardage and in scoring at 37.8 points per game. 3 times in 1982, FSU scored 50+ points.
However FSU coach Bobby Bowden’s preseason expectations were low.
Bowden said, “I try to base my summer predictions on being realistic.” Number one, Florida thrashed us like they did last year and has everybody returning. Our team that played against them, 60 percent of them are gone.
No, we got thrashed. He’s got everybody coming back. He’s got a predictable football team coming back. He’s gonna be pretty good. I always try to tell it like it is.
So I’m sure some people will say he was trying to pull the wool over our eyes. No, I didn’t know these guys were going to play like they’re playing.
I never heard of QB Kelly Lowrey. I knew he was a boy on our team, but he hadn’t done anything in three years to make me think he was going to do anything like he’s done this year.”
Charlie Pell on Bowden’s preseason expectations. “What did you think?”, Pell asked. “He knew he had the talent. And I’m the one who mentioned Jesse Hester and Hassan Jones…He didn’t even mention their names.
He mentioned three other receivers and I got up and said, ‘If you got three receivers better than Hassan and Jesse Hester, everybody else out there can go home.’”
When the game commenced, Florida trailed 10-0 until second string QB Bo Hewko replaced Wayne Peace with 3 and a half minutes remaining in the first half and led the Gators on a 67 yard touchdown drive.
Florida kicked a 22-yard FG with 3:32 remaining after an eight and a half minute drive to give Florida the 13-10 victory.
Florida was in a position to get the game winner when FSU kicker Phil Hall sent his 26-yard attempt wide left with 11:55 to play. It was his only missed field goal of the season up to that point
Florida fans rushed the field and tore down one goalpost at Doak Campbell Stadium before police were able to fend off the fans to keep the other goalpost intact.
Florida had two 100 yard runners: Lorenzo Hampton rushed for 138 yards and Neal Anderson for 103 yards. Florida’s defense held FSU’s No. 2 ranked offense to 327 yards, far below it’s average of 480 yards per game.
Charlie Pell said, “This is the greatest win I’ve ever had since I’ve been associated with this school. We didn’t win the conference, but this game is a sweet consolation.”
Bobby Bowden said, "This hurts more than any loss we’ve had in a while. It’s much worse than last year’s 35-3 loss because at home you’ve got to win it.”
First year for Spurrier coaching in this series.
Even though Florida was ranked No. 5 and the Noles No. 8, the Noles were favored by three points because the game was at home.
Auburn and Miami were the only two ranked teams FSU played prior to the Gators.
Gators were 9-1, Noles 8-2 entering the game. The collective record of 17-3 is the best in the history of the series, and this was the first year that both teams have entered with top ten rankings.
In typical understated Bobby Bowden fashion, he said, “It sure looks like whoever wins this game will finish high in the final ratings. This Florida team has a chance to be as good as the one they had in ’84, and if we beat them and Penn State, we’ll be rated real high again.”
With a win, Florida would have sewed up its first ever 10-win season. Florida ended its season vs FSU because of NCAA-imposed sanctions banned any bowl appearance by Spurrier’s Gators.
The game was preceded by lots of trash talk in the media. FSU tight end Reggie Johnson predicted a 14-point FSU victory.
Florida “Gatorback” Godfrey Myles said, “Man, I dislike those guys a lot. We’ve been out talked all year and I guess maybe that’s why we’re 9-1.
"Now I hear Reggie, whatever his name is, saying they’re going to beat us by two touchdowns. There they go talking again. It’s a tradition with them.”
Myles went on to say, “It’s just bad blood. We haven’t beaten those guys in a while. This year they’re talking again and haven’t beaten anybody. The only games they have played, Auburn and Miami, they lost.
"I don’t see how they can talk when they’re out there playing William & Mary every week. They figure they can talk with that high-powered schedule.”
The Noles had the fifth best scoring offense with a 39-point average. Gators were fifth in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 12.6 points per game.
Florida had the fourth-best defense against the run, giving up just 78.5 yards per game. But Amp Lee ran for 147 yards and two TDs on 26 carries.
The key was stunning the Gators early with a Lawrence Dawsey 76 yard TD reception on the second play of the game, taking the Gators out of it emotionally.
After the 15-point Noles victory, Reggie Johnson said, “I tried to give everybody fair warning. We still didn’t play the way we should have played. We should have really blown them out. I think this shows we’re easily the best team in the nation."
Florida seniors had not beaten FSU in their five years.
No. 5 Florida 30
No. 8 FSU: 45
No. 5 Florida 14
No. 3 FSU 9
1991 matched the No. 5 ranked Gators at home against the No. 3 ranked Noles.
The Noles were ranked No. 1 for 10 games to start the season and dropped to No. 3 after a heart-breaking loss to Miami the week before the Gator game.
There was a record crowd in Gainesville of 85,461.
Gators led 7-3 at half, then 14-3 entering the fourth quarter. Florida would have iced the game, but Shane Matthews was intercepted in the end zone with just over seven minutes left in the game.
FSU drove 80 yards for a touchdown. Their two point attempt failed as backup QB Brad Johnson had to replace Casey Weldon, who was helped off the field from the previous play.
The Gators next offensive series ended and Terrell Buckley returned a punt to midfield.
With time running down, Weldon made two successive completions putting the ball on Florida’s 14-yard line. Florida’s defense stiffened, forcing the Noles into a fourth-down conversion attempt.
On fourth down, Weldon rolled right with LB Carlton Miles in pursuit. Weldon released the ball a moment before Miles hit him, throwing it to Kez McCorvey.
Will White broke in front of McCorvey and deflected the pass, which floated towards FSU’s Matt Frier who was looking for a miracle, but CB Del Speer and McCorvey fell, taking Frier's legs out and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf.
Weldon passed for 305 yards, but completed about 15 percent less than his average with 24 of 51 completions. The Gators sacked him three times and pummeled him on virtually every snap.
Weldon blamed the pressure on injuries and chemistry, as guard Kevin Mancini was injured as was Guard Reggie Dixon.
Weldon said, “I thought that was a huge factor, the chemistry wasn’t there for us. If you want to analyze the game, that’s where you have to look.”
Florida became the first team in school history to win 10 games in a season.
Florida killed FSU’s hopes of a national title. Florida kept alive its hopes of a slim chance of a national title.
Florida jumped to No. 3 and lost to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
Unranked Florida: 20
No. 8 FSU: 13
Coming into the 2004 game, Florida State needed a victory over the Gators to have a chance at winning the ACC conference title and earning an automatic BCS berth as ACC Champs.
Tenth-ranked FSU was 8-2 entering the game; unranked Florida was 6-4.
The Gators were 2-1 after lame duck coach Ron Zook was fired on Oct. 25, 2004.
Going in to the game, Florida led the all time series 27-19-2, but hadn’t won in their last eight trips to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
FSU was having quarterback issues, with both Chris Rix's and Wyatt Sexton's inconsistent play.
FSU was coming into the game after their lowest offensive output in Bobby Bowden’s 29 seasons of coaching at FSU with just 121 yards the previous week against NC State.
Florida used a touchdown pass from Chris Leak and a touchdown run by Ciatrick Fason to upset FSU for their first win in Tallahassee since 1986.
A win by Zook’s Gators at FSU was something that his predecessor, Steve Spurrier, was never able to accomplish.
The Gator upset victory also spoiled a special night for Bobby Bowden as before the game, FSU named its playing surface Bobby Bowden Field and unveiled a gigantic stained glass window with Bobby Bowden’s likeness.
Gator fans will jokingly refer to Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium as "Ron Zook Field” after this improbable Gator victory.
Will Bobby Bowden’s unranked Noles beat the highly ranked Gators this year like the Gators did to FSU in 1971 and 1972? As this rivalry shows, anything is possible.
Some stats to ponder:
• UF has been ranked higher than FSU 20 times, winning 15 by 265, losing 5 by 52.
• Average margin of victory for UF is 17.6 pts, average margin of victory for FSU is 10.4 pts
• FSU has been ranked higher than UF 20 times, winning 13 by 178 and losing 7 by 81 (average margin of victory for FSU 13.7 pts
• Average margin of victory for UF 11.6 pts
• Florida and Florida State have played 35 times and UF has scored 63 more points than FSU…or a mere 1.8 points per game.
• Since 1976, the teams are 17-17-1.
• UF has been ranked higher than FSU 15 times, winning 10 games by 212 (21.2 avg) and losing 5 by 52 (10.4 avg).
• FSU has been ranked higher than UF 16 times winning 11 times by 174 pts (15.8 avg), losing 5 times by 50 pts (10 avg).
• Since 1976, the higher ranked team won 21 out of 35 times by 376 points (average pt margin is 17.9 pts)
• Since 1976, the lower ranked team won 10 times by 102 pts (average margin is 10.2 pts)
In the Bobby Bowden era:
• UF and FSU have met 21 times with both teams ranked in the top 25, with Florida scoring 561 points and FSU scoring 518 for an average differential of 2.05 points.
• In the Bowden era against all but Urban Meyer, UF and FSU have met 19 times each ranked in the top 25 with Florida scoring 482 points, FSU scoring 496 for an average differential of 2.05 points.
In the Urban Meyer era since 2005:
• Florida has been ranked higher 4 times, winning 4 times by 97 pts (24.3 pts)
• FSU has been unranked in two of the four meetings
• UF has outscored FSU 145 to 48, for a difference of 97 points. Average score during this span is UF 36.3 FSU 12.
• UF and FSU have been ranked in the top 25 two times. UF has scored 79 points in those games, FSU 22. Average score of these games is UF 39.5, FSU 11.