Florida football: Ian uncertainty reminiscent of Hurricane Matthew and LSU

Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) celebrates the win over the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) celebrates the win over the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

With Hurricane Ian heading straight towards the Sunshine State, Florida football’s contest against Eastern Washington is trivial by nature. Gainesville itself will be spared the worst of the storm, but parts of Florida’s east coast could see storm surges 10 feet or higher.

However, Gators’ Athletic Director Scott Stricklin put out a statement yesterday saying that the game in The Swamp would be played as scheduled.

It was then announced today that the game would be moved to Sunday at noon.

There are football implications for both the Gators and for Eastern Washington to play this game: Florida would love to rotate in a bunch of young guys for experience while Eastern Washington is expecting a $750,000 payout for making the cross-country journey. For EWU, this is the second time they have had a payday against Florida in jeopardy. The Eagles were originally supposed to play the Gators in 2020 but that game was moved to this year due to the all-SEC schedule Florida played that year.

While a decision was made fairly quickly this time around, we’ve been through this song and dance before with Florida football where decisions had to be made while there is a hurricane out there. Most notably in 2016, Hurricane Matthew was off the Atlantic Coast of Florida and then Florida AD Jeremy Foley was hesitant to make a decision in regards to that week’s contest between Florida football and LSU.

What happened in the buildup, the game itself, and the aftermath created bad blood between the two schools that are still felt today.

Florida Football: Hurricane Matthew and LSU

Florida and LSU were scheduled to play on October 8, 2016, inside The Swamp. The Gators were off to a 4-1 start and were ranked 18th in the AP Poll. LSU was unranked at the time but was coming off a 42-7 win over Missouri.

There was just one problem for the game of October 8, Hurricane Matthew was a category 4 storm making its way towards the eastern coast of Florida.

Whether or not the game would be plated was a topic of discussion all week-long. Foley opted for a wait-and-see strategy, hoping to storm would be gone by that Saturday. LSU wasn’t as patient and claims to have offered multiple alternatives to ensure the game was still played on October 8, including moving the game to Baton Rouge.

We reached out to Death Valley Voice writer Gabe Henderson to give the perspective of LSU fans about this game and we asked him if LSU fans felt that Florida football was dragging its feet heading into the original matchup.

"For LSU fans, it felt as if Florida was being difficult for the sake of being difficult. It obviously wasn’t an ideal situation for anybody, but LSU and the SEC were doing everything it their power to make it happen. Meanwhile, the Gators’ administration seemed unwilling to comprimise on anything at the time. I wouldn’t neccessarily say Florida was trying to dodge LSU, it was more petty than anything else.”"

In Foley’s defense, his job was to do what was in the best interest of the University of Florida. The LSU game is one of the biggest home games every other year in The Swamp and had Matthew shifted 50 miles to the east, much of Florida would have been spared and it would have been a sunny day in Gainesville on October 8.

One of the main points of contention is when did LSU actually offer to move the game. Foley countered that arranging all the required logistics to get the team to Baton Rouge wasn’t feasible.

When Foley did decide to postpone the game he stated:

"“I know there will be a lot of opinions about how we came to this conclusion and when we came to the conclusion, but this is the right decision”"

Florida Football: The game itself against LSU

More bickering ensued and finally, both teams agreed to play on November 19, 2016, after both schools had to move previously scheduled non-conference games from that date (Florida football was supposed to take on Presbyterian, and LSU was supposed to go against South Alabama).

Even before kickoff, the two teams met at midfield to exchange pushing and shoving with Leonard Fournette and an assistant Florida coach getting into it.

The game itself was a blueprint for how then Gators’ head coach Jim McElwain won anything during his time in Gainesville; inept offense with a rock-solid defense that somehow would drag Florida to victory.

Florida was down 7-3 at halftime before Austin Appleby hit a 98-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland to put Florida up 10-7. LSU would tie it at 10 before two Florida field goals made the score 16-10 with 3:18 left in the game.

LSU drove all the way down the field and had first-and-goal on the Gators’ seven-yard line. Derrius Guice ran for two yards to get to the five. Then he ran for four more to get to the one. J.D. Moore was stuffed on third down to set up one of the most iconic goal-line stops in Florida football history.

Gabe Henderson again with what this game meant for LSU fans’ opinion of Florida moving forward:

"“LSU fans hate losing to Florida. The two programs have been amongst the best in the SEC this century, and the games are always close. (Guice being stopped on fourth down) gave the Gators some bragging rights, which absolutely serves to heighten a rivarly. LSU-Florida is one the most underrated rivalries in the SEC.”"

Many Florida fans feel the same way. The now annual matchup against LSU has brought about far more angst than the Tennessee game has over the last ten years. There was real bad blood from this 2016 matchup due to the postponement and the post-game explosion onto the field by Florida football players and coaches is something we haven’t seen against other top Florida rivals.

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