And, it’s as weird as ever
by Tony Basilio
In the wake of what has devolved into the UT-Florida series, it seems these games just keep getting stranger. While underwhelming, Urban Meyer’s debut at Florida was a successful one for sure. He took advantage of Tennessee’s special teams play that was, uh, special, and a UT offense that was equally so. Britton Colquitt’s faked punt attempt combined with Tennessee’s dubious quarterback rotation only completes a decade of weirdness that is UT/Florida. Here’s a look back at this rivalry and some bizarre, yet defining moments:
’04: Two words: Personal foul. Two more words: Bobby Moreau! He’s the side judge who threw a personal foul penalty on Florida’s Dallas Baker who was sparring with Jonathan Wade. Wade smacked Baker first, who retaliated and was flagged. Compounding things was the officials’ failure to wind the clock during the controversial call, which allowed Tennessee to get into field-goal range for James Wilhoit, who converted from 52 yards out with time virtually expiring. That Wilhoit moments earlier had pulled an extra point could only mean it’s Tennessee-Florida.
’03: Current Florida graduate assistant CJ Leak hits James Banks on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Leak connecting on any pass in his UT career was strange enough. To complete a pass in that manner at that point of a close game could only spell UT 24, Florida 10.
’02: Forget the Alamo. Around here, we remember the meltdown of the Ice Man. Casey Clausen, Tennessee’s calm, cool and collected California kid fumbled five times in a second-quarter debacle which resulted an ugly 30-13 hammer job at the hands of the Gators before a shocked, stunned and silenced Neyland Stadium crowd. What did they expect? It’s Tennessee-Florida.
’01: When’s the last time you saw a Tennessee team as a 17-point underdog? Florida had their ticket punched for the Rose Bowl. It was a foregone conclusion. This one was really strange in that it was played on Dec. 3 due to the 9/11 tragedy. The game was eerily genteel between both fan bases. Perhaps the Vols could’ve been more accommodating in the spirit of the moment. Somebody forgot to tell Travis Stephens (226 yards) and a feisty Tennessee defense that led the Vols to a 34-32 win. The game turned out to be Steve Spurrier’s final game as Florida’s Head Coach in the house of pain he erected known as the Swamp.
’00: Al Matthews. Jabar Gaffney. Time running out. He still hasn’t caught the ball. Somebody named AJ Suggs started for the Vols in the game that was finished by a phantom touchdown in the waning moments of regulation. Florida 27, Tennessee 23.
’99: Toss Sweep left. Jamal Lewis. Toss Sweep left. Jamal Lewis. Toss Sweep left on fourth down. Jamal Lewis. Please tell me, seven years later, that Tennessee didn’t run that play on fourth down near mid-field with the game in the balance. Florida 23, Tennessee 21.
’98: Collins Cooper misses from 33 yards in overtime. Jeff Hall converts from 41 yards. Tennessee squeezes out a 20-17 overtime win despite converting only five offensive first downs in the game. When’s the last time a Tennessee fullback (Shawn Bryson) scored on an 80-yard run untouched? You got it, Tennessee-Florida.
’97: Peyton Manning’s last shot to beat the hated Gators ends in the first half with an interception by Florida’s Tony George, who rolls 65 yards for a touchdown. Final scores: Florida 33, Tennessee 20 and Florida 4, Tennessee 0.
’96: Remember the game of the century? I paid $250 per ticket outside to get in. Hey, my brother flew all the way from Philly and was wearing me out with “I thought you said you had tickets.” A costly promise. Especially when Danny Wuerffel hit Ike Hilliard for a 45-yard touchdown on fourth and 15 near midfield on Florida’s first series. The so-called Game of the Century was Tennessee’s answer to the Hindenburg. Florida led 35-0 midway through the second quarter.
’95: A 17-point first half disappeared in a Spurrier shower early in the third quarter. Never mind the deluge and the urine thrown on Tennessee fans, 49 unanswered points had all Tennessee fans urinated off. Lawrence Wright’s hit on Joey Kent still makes the Vol Nation wince. As does the one-sided 62-37 final.
Urban Meyer picked up his first win in the series, but he shouldn’t count his chickens just yet. Meyer now joins Nick Saban, Mark Richt and even Ron Zook (yes, Ron Zook) as first-year coaches who own wins over Phillip Fulmer. To the Gator Nation, they will maintain that the magic of the Swamp is back. Reality is that he’s matched his departed predecessor. Can Meyer get it done against the Vols? We’ll find out in another 52 weeks. Speaking for all of Big Orange Country, we can’t wait!
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