As the Gators prepare for the big Sugar Bowl showdown with Louisville on January 2nd, HailFloridaHail looks back at previous Gator Sugar Bowl match-ups. Today we take a look back to the 2001 game versus in-state rival the Miami Hurricanes.
Both teams came into the game featuring high powered offenses. The Gators had cocky freshman quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Earnest Graham, and receivers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. The Hurricanes featured quarterback Ken Dorsey, running back Clinton Portis, and receivers Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne. Of course, both teams featured great defenses too led by All American Ken Dorsey for Miami and cornerback Lito Sheppard for the Gators.
For the 9-2 Gators this was just a chance to show they were still one of the elite teams in college football, but for the Hurricanes, who came in 10-1 it was an opportunity to make a case for a split national championship. The BCS had left them out of the title game, despite Miami’s being second in every major poll, which instead had a match-up of undefeated Oklahoma versus one loss Florida State. The hope for Miami was that with a big win against Florida in the Sugar Bowl and a Florida State upset might get the writers in the AP poll to vote them number one ahead of the Noles. The BCS of course would have to go to the winner of that game by default.
The first half showcased the offensive firepower and defensive prowess of both teams as there were big passing plays and big defensive hits. Both quarterbacks were under the gun from strong pass rushes often letting passes go with players in their face or as they were being hit. By halftime the teams had combined for 497 yards and 52 pass attempts but despite all the offense the score was still only 13-10 in favor of the Hurricanes.
The teams, who moved the ball effectively in the first half between the twenty yard lines but had a hard time cracking the goal line, mostly traded field goals. The Gators, however, opened the scoring on their second possession with Grossman driving them to a touchdown pass to Kirk Wells and a 7-0 lead.
The Hurricanes would respond with a short drive which resulted in a field goal and then a longer drive which culminated in a Ken Dorsey touchdown pass to tight end Jeremy Shockey and the Canes led 10-7. After another Miami field goal, the Gators would put one on the board with a Jeff Chandler 51 yard kick for a 13-10 Miami lead late in the second quarter.
The Gators running their two minute offense got themselves into field goal range seemingly looking to tie the score going into halftime. However, Spurrier, who always seemed to show distaste for field goals, chose to go for broke with 13 seconds left in the half taking a shot downfield which was intercepted leaving the Gators in a 13-10 halftime deficit.
The Hurricanes would take control in the second half. After the Gators turned a Ken Dorsey interception into a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half putting the Gators ahead 17-13, Dorsey would lead them on an 80 yard touchdown drive to retake the lead. After another Dorsey touchdown pass and a short touchdown run, the Canes put the game out of reach with the tough Hurricane defense shuting down any Gator comeback attempts to leave with a 37-20 victory over the Gators.