Written by James Brown, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder
To get in the mood for the upcoming season, I started thinking about all the great times I've had going to games.
I decided to rank the top ten Florida Gators football games I've attended.
For these rankings, I considered the build-up to the game, the atmosphere at the game, and the outcome of the game itself. Restricting the set of games to choose from was tough, as I've been to plenty of games, but for whatever reason some of them stick in my mind over others.
Here are those games, I hope the list provides a fair enough sampling of my experiences that they help you remember your good memories of college football. Here's to a great season, now only about a month away!
1. BCS Championship: (2) Florida vs. (1) Ohio State; Jan 2007
Of course the only National Championship Game I’ve ever attended had to be the top pick on this list. The magnitude of the game alone means it would be on the list, but the actual game was devastatingly awesome for a Florida fan (not so much a good game for anyone else to watch).
We are all familiar with the storylines, but I’ll reiterate from personal experience. We were dismissed as having a shot or even deserving to be in the game by the Buckeye fans (and Wolverine fans... and everyone else). I have been to plenty of road and neutral SEC games, and there is always hatred—always someone wanting to get into it with you.
Those OSU folks just did their anti-Michigan cheers and didn’t even really pay attention to us. Our table of fans would be the only Gators in a restaurant, but we didn’t get much hostility.
I don’t think the world ignores us any more, however.
I tried to tell all the opposing fans we were going to win, and all they did was debate how they should be playing Michigan again. I think that ‘rivalry’ is more of a symbiotic relationship. In the SEC, we don’t have ‘rivalry week’. We have ‘Saturday’.
2. (10) Florida vs. (1) Florida State; Nov 1997
FSU was No. 1 and undefeated coming into Gainesville. This was a fantastic game no matter what your allegiance (FSU fans might not remember it fondly, but a neutral party would agree with me).
The late Fred Taylor run; the deep pass from Doug Johnson to Jacquez Green; the way Spurrier rotated QBs on each play: there are many legendary things about this game. I’ll give you a couple from my vantage point in the stands.
The opening kickoff came to our corner (the NE corner of the stadium). The FSU guy received, and got hit so hard it looked like his head exploded. My dad said ‘There goes the pregame meal”. There were chunks of vomit on the field throughout the game.
Secondly, after the famous Johnson-to-Quezzie connection, some guy actually jumped down from the upper ledge (those walls with ‘Home of the... Florida Gators’ painted on them) and landed right next to me during the celebration.
Lastly, this game was among the- if not the- loudest of all time. Go to any forum and they’ll have the argument, but it’s definitely the loudest I’ve heard.
3. Florida at (6) LSU; Oct 2003
My roommate at the time had played high school football with an LSU player. We made several away game trips together, and we just through Baton Rouge would be a good time, and we'd get steamrolled while LSU would go on to play for championships.
We were half right, as LSU went on to split a title with USC. (Memo to USC fans: this means you've only won ONE BCS Championship. Florida, LSU > USC!)
The Florida defense came through big time, as the only score by LSU was on special teams. The 19-7 victory was more the Gators way than the score indicated. The fact that LSU's only score was a punt return TD, on the first punt of the game, actually made me a little more confident when the opening kick in the BCS Championship game went for a TD.
4. World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: (22) Florida vs. (5) Georgia; Nov 2002
This win was extremely satisfying on multiple levels. First, because it was against our biggest rival. Second, because it was Georgia's only loss of the season. Third, did I mention it was against Georgia?
But here is the greatest reason it was so satisfying: the Georgia fans were rabid on Friday night, thinking that Spurrier was gone and they would gain control of this series.
Big Al and the Kaholics did their cover band thing at the Jacksonville Landing, all the while getting Bulldog (I refuse to use their intentional misspelling. Unless it is on a t-shirt like 'Dawgs Lick Balls') fans to do their barking cheers. At one point the MC for the evening said 'Because we all know who is going to win tomorrow!' and the overwhelmingly pro-Georgia crowd went crazy.
The game was also very close throughout, so neutral parties would agree that this was a fantastic game to attend, for reasons besides my hatred of the heathens from Athens.
5. (23) Florida vs. Auburn; Oct 2002
An overtime win against a long-time (now forgotten) rival must be in the top five. Especially when Damon Duval was such a good kicker, and was lining up for a gimme FG to win the game. When Bobby McCray blocked that kick, the student section went absolutely bonkers.
I weighed probably 175 lbs and was wearing flip flops, but somehow my jumping up and down broke the bleacher I was standing on. Or maybe it was the 20,000 other students doing the same thing.
The Rex Grossman TD pass to go ahead and the Clint Mitchell sack to seal the win in OT were also memorable moments.
6. (2) Florida v. (4) Tennessee; Sept 1997
Ah, Peyton Manning’s senior year. I remember it so wistfully. I wish I had season tickets in 95 so I could link to the Joey Kent hit, but this one was almost as sweet. If Doug Johnson stays away from the nightlife in Louisiana and at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, we could have made a good run, thanks to this game, and No. 2 on this list.
7. (6) Florida v. (16) Alabama; Sept 1991
Just a memorable game as it was the conference opener, and Alabama was very much on top of the college football universe, while Florida was an afterthought. Also, it was a night game in the Swamp, and felt huge because it was on national TV. It’s also the only time I’ve seen ‘Bama.
The fact that it was a shutout makes it a memorable game for me (I appreciate such things), but then ‘competitive’ hasn’t been a requirement to get on this list before now, so why start?
8. (1) Florida va. (16) Auburn; Oct 1996
Auburn QB Dameyune Craig had a lot to say about Florida, and considering the Plainsmen had prevailed in the last meeting in the Swamp, he may have been justified. Florida throttled Terry Bowden’s boys, winning 51-10. Here is the writeup from the LA Times.
In Craig’s defense, his comments that the Florida defense had not been tested were probably true—we had only thumped Peyton Manning’s Vols prior to this game. Like many of these others, the build-up to the game made it a better game than the actual score.
The beating, after all the talk, was certainly satisfying. I did not know at the time what a routine thing this would become for Florida Gators fans (Ohio State fans: that means you and the jibber-jabber circa December 2006).
9. (19) Florida vs. (21) Florida State; Nov 2005
Looking back, this game means more now than it did at the time. The 34-7 victory marked the beginning of Urban Meyer's dominance over the 'School Out West'. My only regret about the game was that it wasn't a shutout.
On a personal note, it was my last home game as a student, and a blowout victory over a hated rival is always memorable, and has to make a top ten list. It didn't hurt that I made the ride to the stadium in the bed of an El Camino with Gators First co-founder Jesse Colston, a boombox, and a cooler.
10. (15) Florida vs. Vanderbilt; Nov 2005
I know, how could any game involving Vanderbilt make a top ten? I had to put it in because it went to OT. I don’t have to rank it any higher than ten. I just remember thinking that, as a graduating student, I would forever be associated with that year we lost to Vandy. We didn’t.
11. Citrus Bowl: (6) Florida vs. (11) Penn State; Jan 1998
If the Big Ten gets to count Penn State, and still be the Big Ten, then the same goes for my Top Ten. A bowl game victory against JoePa surely has to make the list, especially when it means I saw Spurrier make sure Fred Taylor was a first-round pick (43 carries for 243 yards).
We also had a rowdy guy in our section who cheered wildly for Jesse Palmer’s only completion. Memorable times all around. By the way, I’d like to close with this link about the Citrus Bowl game mentioned here. Blogs have come so far, it’s like staring at a cave painting.
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