Leading up to this season’s Sugar Bowl game between the Florida Gators and the Louisville Cardinals, HailFloridaHail takes a look at some memorable past Florida Sugar Bowl games. In this part, we take a look back at the 1992 game between the Gators and the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish.
Known, tongue in cheek, as the Cheerio’s game because a waiter famously told Holtz the old cheerios joke that goes like this.
Q: What’s the difference between Cheerio’s and the Notre Dame football team?
A: One belongs in a bowl, the other doesn’t.
The Gators came into the game heavily favored at 10-1 and ranked third in the country after winning the first official SEC title in school history by going undefeated in conference play. Notre Dame came in 9-3 and ranked 18th. The match-up would be an old school-new school battle with Lou Holtz’s fullhouse/wishbone triple option taking on Steve Spurrier’s fun and gun.
The first half was almost all Florida as Shane Matthews led the Gators to a 16-7 halftime lead that realistically should have been a lot more. But due to some poor execution (dropped passes and a poorly underthrown interception with a receiver wide open in the end zone) the Gators settled for several Arden Czyzewski field goals and allowed Notre Dame to hang around giving them opportunity for a grand second half comeback.
Comeback they did behind the rushing of “the Bus” Jerome Bettis and the oddly well executed quarterback play of Rick Mirer, the Irish took it to the favored Gators in the second half. The Gators, on the other hand, continued their poor execution with dropped passes, poor passing at key times, and bad decision-making on the part of Spurrier and watched as Lou Holtz’s team took over and ran away with it.
The second half for the Gators was a case study in Murphy’s Law, “What could go wrong, did go wrong.” Several big drops including a couple of wide open touchdown passes, a big fourth down drop, and the underthrown interception that should have been a Gator score left the Gators in a too close for comfort game. The Gator defense’s inability to stop the Notre Dame triple option rushing attack in the second half was the nail in the coffin.
After the game, Lou Holtz told the sideline reporter of the waiter’s joke told to him before the game and he exclaimed, “I think we proved we belonged here.”
Matthews passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns but the two interceptions he threw with the numerous dropped passes absolutely killed the Gators. The Gator defense, eaten alive in the second half, gave up 433 rushing yards in the game a really crazy stat considering Notre Dame only had 34 rushing yards at halftime.