I’ve been watching the Gators since 1977 so obviously I have no memories of this series before that season. From a Florida Gator perspective here’s a list of my top five Florida-Florida State games.
1986 Florida 17- Florida State 13
In a driving rain storm Kerwin Bell closed out his great Florida career with victory over the Seminoles, leading the team late on a game winning drive culminated in a td pass to Ricky Nattiel to make it 6 in a row against the hated Seminoles.
Having started rooting for the Gators in the late 70’s when Florida football was a bottom feeder and when the Seminoles had become national powers under new head coach Bobby Bowden (yes I remember when he took over the program), it was gratifying to see the Gators dominate this series in the mid 80’s. The program was starting to feel the effects of NCAA probation and would go through another round a year later which really helped swing the recruiting momentum back in the Seminoles favor jumpstarting their 15 year run of top five finishes.
To any Seminoles who might stumble upon this: YOUR WELCOME!
1991 Florida 14- Florida State 9
A tough defensive struggle in Spurrier’s second season, the Gators proved against the higher ranked Seminoles that the program was all the way back from the second series of NCAA sanctions leveled in the 1980’s. It was the first time both teams came in ranked in the top 5 with the Seminoles ranked 3rd and the Gators 5th.
Florida completely shut down the run and survived a good passing day by Casey Weldon with some timely defensive stands to win it 14-9. Florida had a commanding lead 14-3 heading into the fourth quarter. They were driving for a touchdown that would seemingly put the game away when Shane Matthews threw an interception in the end zone to shut the drive down. Behind Casey Weldon’s passing the Seminoles promptly drove 80 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-9. Weldon was knocked out of the game on the td pass and backup Brad Johnson’s two point pass attempt fell incomplete.
The Seminoles would have one more shot at winning the game driving to the Gators 14 yard line late before the Gator defense stiffened holding them to a final fourth down attempt. Casey Weldon’s pass attempt was tipped away at the goal line and the Gators held on for the victory. It would prove to be one of the few low scoring games in the series during the 90’s as both teams featured very high flying offenses.
1997 Florida 32- Florida State 29
In a masterful show of coaching Steve Spurrier rotated quarterbacks to jump start the struggling quarterback position to beat the Seminoles on a late scoring drive. The Seminoles came in ranked number one and a 31 and 1/2 point favorite over the 10th ranked Gators but ended up in a dog fight from the start.
In a game that was back and forth throughout, the Gators took over on their own 20 yard line with 2:33 remaining trailing 29-25. Quarterback Doug Johnson got the game winning drive rolling on first down with a 63 yard pass to Jacquez Green down to the Seminole 17. Two Fred Taylor rushes later and the Gators led 32-29 with Taylor getting the final two yards for a score. They would hold on to win the game after linebacker Dwayne Thomas intercepted a Thad Busby pass attempt. After the game, Steve Spurrier was quoted on the field saying,
“Obviously God’s still smiling on the Gators.”
2008 Florida 45- Florida State 15
In a driving rainstorm, Tim Tebow played a memorable game leading a dominating Florida effort and finishing with a garnet soaked jersey from scoring in the Seminole end zone. With Tebow running around, through, and over Seminole defenders, Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps running a track meet, and Brandon Spikes and company putting forth a stifling defensive effort, the Gators had perhaps their most dominating victory ever in Tallahassee.
The only thing better than beating the Seminoles in the Swamp is dominating them in Tallahassee while watching the Seminole fans arms resting tepidly at their side instead of swinging to the sound of the Seminole fight song. The sight of Tim Tebow firing up the crowd in his garnet soaked white Gator uniform will forever live on in video highlights and internet gifs.
1997 Florida 52- Florida State 20 The Sugar Bowl National Championship rematch
In the rematch to the regular season game won by the Seminoles 24-21, Steve Spurrier devised a fantastic game plan designed to protect quarterback Danny Wuerffel who had been pulverized in the first meeting to win their first ever national championship. In the month leading up to the game, Spurrier put in a shotgun passing game to give Wuerffel extra time to see the field and get the ball out quicker neutralizing the Seminoles potent pass rush which had beat him up in the regular season loss.
The Gators came out of half time leading only 24-20 but quickly turned it into a rout with Wuerffel finishing with 3 touchdowns and 306 yards passing. In the month between the regular season game and the national title game, Spurrier masterfully worked the media and refs complaining about the late hits the Seminoles defense put on Wuerffel after the play “to the echo of the whistle”. The players on both sides of the ball seemed better prepared and played with more intensity and the final score reflected that.
The only thing better than beating your most hated rival is to do it for a national championship.
Leave a comment in the comments section with your top five favorite Florida-Florida State games.