Top ten Florida-FSU games

Today I’ve ranked Florida’s 10 (+1) best wins over FSU in the past 30 years. Happy Thanksgiving from IAKOW, as we hope all of you enjoy the holiday with family, loved ones, plenty to eat, and lots of football. After you’ve feasted on a totally healthy portion of turkey, potatoes, stuffing….gravy everywhere…with like four or five of those incredible rolls after some mac n’ cheese…

…Please observe my list and enjoy! How does my list compare to yours? Let me know in the comments section.

And about our little get together in The Swamp on Saturday with the girls’ school, here’s all I’ll say for now:

Florida needs to be a team that is looking to be provoked. I don’t care if it costs us an extra penalty or two. The Gators should want this game to last all night.

Make Dalvin Cook wish he played basketball. And by that, I mean you’ve got to hit his kid on every single instance he’s not on the sidelines. Keep it legal, but test his shoulder pads out all game. If he has shown one flaw, it’s his ball security. If our defense keeps at it, he’ll cough one up.

Stick with the game plan, protect Treon, and support him. If Treon has the worst game of his life Saturday, it’ll be unfortunate. But so be it. There’s nobody else besides him, and I like our chances considering he almost led us to a win in the Erector Set Stadium last year.
30 for 30: Florida’s Top 10 Wins Over Florida State in the Last 30 Years

Honorable Mention: November 28, 2009: #1 Florida, Florida State 10

Florida fans bid farewell to Tim Tebow and the rest of Florida’s legendary senior class of 2009, which became the winningest class in SEC history. 2009 was the peak of Gator dominance in the series, and the 37-10 blowout win over FSU meant Florida had outscored the ‘Noles 182-58 to this point in the Urban Meyer era. This was an unprecedented period of success over the former women’s school in Tallahassee; the 2009 game couldn’t have gone much smoother, too. The Gators jumped to a halftime lead of 24-0, which grew to 30-0 and then 37-3 into the second half. Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and Joe Haden finished their home career in style and improved their career record to 4-0 vs FSU. Little did the it know, the 90,900+ crowd in The Swamp would have to wait six long years before it would again see another SEC East Champ wearing orange and blue.

10. November 29, 2008: #2 Florida 45, #23 Florida State 15

A storm mimicking Old Testament proportions swept into the state capitol in 2008, and Bobby Bowden field turned into a garnet and brown slip-n-slide on acid that was too much for its out-dated draining system to handle. For any wayward ‘Nole that has stumbled over to this fine article, take notice: Your field is a dump and in my opinion that storm simply uncovered the veil on what Bobby Bowden field really is. It could pour for 40 days in 40 nights in The Swamp and Florida Field would prove far better a playing surface than what we saw at Doak Campbell in 2008.

About the game; Florida was on its way to an SEC and BCS Championship, and one play pretty much summarizes the ’08 UF-FSU game. I’m sure you all remember it–Tebow scrambles on a 3rd & long late in the 1st quarter, and just demolishes an FSU defender en-route to around a 25 yard run. Florida was on another level, and, unlike 2006, wasn’t going to let FSU stand in the way without taking a dose of painful harsh reality. No amount of rain, screaming FSU fans, or shitty refs would affect the Gators. The team would total 502 yards, more than doubling the ‘Noles, and the season that brought Tebow’s infamous “Speech” after Ole Miss was about to become a special one indeed.

9. November 29, 1986: Florida 17, Florida State 13

Although Georgia fans bask in its glory over the Gators in the 1980s, some of the best Gator teams (before Spurrier, for the most part) surfaced in the first half of the decade. My Uncle John made a rare trip to Tallahassee in ’86 (he doesn’t make the trip out West anymore, not since 1990) and witnessed the late heroics of “the throwin’ Mayo’n,” quarterback Kerwin Bell, who found Ricky Nattiel in the end zone to give the Gators a 17-13 victory in Doak Campbell Stadium.kerwin

The victory was Florida’s sixth in a row over Florida State, and my Uncle John always remember to include in his story, the vast amounts of ‘Nole fans calling for Bowden’s head outside of the stadium. The 1986 win is so special because it ended a tough year for the Gators in a wonderful fashion, and because no other Gator team would leave Tallahassee victorious until a lame duck named Ron Zook fulfilled his destiny nearly 20 years later.

8. November 25, 1995: #3 Florida 35, #6 Florida State 24

In the heat of the 1990s, Steve Spurrier and the Gators were running the SEC like a college student zooming through a final exam with a flawless cheat sheet…while the rest of the class was just learning how to take notes. The in-state affairs, however, were very much in Florida State’s hands, which had won four in a row entering the 1995 contest. The Gators fell to FSU in 1993 and watched them take home a National Title, and in 1994 laid the egg known as “The Choke at Doak.”

For Spurrier, the ’95 match-up was a must win for many reasons–a shot at a perfect regular season was one of them, and a temporary takeover in the rivalry was a result of the victory. The Gators won three out of four games against Florida State from 1995-97 and experienced some of the greatest moments in program history.

FSU capitalized on an early UF turnover, taking a 3-0 lead until Danny Wuerffel hit Quez Green in the end zone to take a lead it would never relinquish. Chris Doering would become the SEC’s all time leader in touchdown receptions for a career (and maybe a single-season too?) as Florida’s 35-24 win wrapped up a perfect 11-0 campaign. And by the way, as Florida led 28-14 in the second half, my favorite Mick Hubert call of time happened: Wuerffel hit Ike Hilliard for a 70+ yard touchdown strike after FSU crept back into the game. Mick’s call is brilliant, and the exploding crowd inside The Swamp provides clutch background vocals.

7. November 24, 2007: #9 Florida 45, Florida State 12

Ninth-ranked Florida was 8-3, the defending National Champions with a Heisman trophy front-runner, and with perhaps the SEC’s best offense before its showdown in The Swamp against FSU. The Seminoles were on the heels of a 7-6 season the year before and had won just three games past September in 2007 (all of their wins in 2007 were vacated due to an NCAA violation that involved football players cheating in the classroom).

Tebow lowers should towards the end zone, Geno lays down in the rubble near the goal line
Tebow lowers a shoulder towards the end zone, Geno lays down in the rubble near the goal line
With all of this in mind, I suppose FSU linebacker Geno Hayes felt it was a good idea when he decided to run his mouth in the week leading up to the Florida-Florida State game. I’m sure you remember it all: “Tebow is going down,” blah-blah-blah even though we suck blah-blah-blah. Well Tebow went down alright–down in the history books forever as the 2007 Heisman trophy winner after he solidified his case with five touchdowns against the ‘Noles.

6. November 17, 2001: #4 Florida 37, #20 Florida State 13

In a game that ended in controversy, Spurrier ended a three-game skid against Florida State by way of a rare blowout against Bowden. If not for Osama Bin Laden (that douche…), Florida may very well have moved onto the SEC Title, and then the Rose Bowl for a shot at the National Championship vs Miami.

This win in 2001 brought Florida’s record to 18-0 during night games in The Swamp under Spurrier, and the Gators dominated from the start with a 20-3 halftime lead. This was a big win for the Gators because ’98, ’99, and ’00 losses to FSU were terrible games that put big dampers on Florida’s achievements in those seasons.

The controversial part of the game happened in the 2nd half, when Seminole linebacker/thug Darnell Dockett twisted Florida running back Ernest Graham’s knee well after a play was over and it looked deliberate and malicious. Graham would end the regular season in crutches and missed Florida’s showdown with Tennessee the following week that ended in a 34-32 defeat. Graham unsuccessfully took the issue to court (yeah, it was a big deal and Spurrier was pissed) and Florida fans were left with yet another instance to refer to when calling FSU players dirty pieces of garbage.

5. November 24, 2012: #4 Florida 37, #10 Florida State, 26

Coming in at No. 5 is the triumph in Tallahassee, brought to you & orchestrated by Will Muschamp. Probably the shining moment in Coach Boom’s four seasons at UF came on an absolute beautiful day for football in the state capitol. I have fond memories of this game, as I watched from the Gator section in the end zone. It didn’t lead to any kind of championship for the Gators, but the 2012 game just might be the most satisfying victory in the past five years of Gator football (maybe tied with last year’s Georgia win, won’t argue with that).

Florida had struggled on offense so much that it needed a blocked punt return for a touchdown to beat Louisiana-Lafayette in The Swamp–and to make matters (appear) more difficult, it was facing the ‘vaunted’ FSU defense, ranked #1 in the country. Can you imagine if Florida’s defense played an ACC schedule? That 2012 defense might have statistically been the greatest of all time if Florida enjoyed the luxury of Boston College, Wake Forest, and Virginia in consecutive weeks. Anyway, the #4 Gators were not thought very highly of, and FSU fans, among many college football analysts, picked Florida State without a doubt. Florida dominated early, then gave the lead back to Florida State just to screw with ’em, and erupted in the 4th quarter to light up the scoreboard with 37 points by the time it was all said and done. Mike Gillislee reached 1,000 yards on the season that day with a game-total of 140 yards, and a young Matt Jones added 81 on 10 carries–including a 37 yarder to ice it. FSU’s defense was only giving up 70 rushing yards per game, and the battle-tested Gators bulldozed its way for 244. So Florida’s rushing attack was the equivalent of three ACC schools put together, and then some, I guess you can say.

4. November 30, 1991: #5 Florida 14, #3 Florida State

In a span of 15 days, the 1991 National Title favorites coached by Bobby Bowden went from #1 in the Country to #3 in the State. There’s a shot of that friendly reminder on a fan-made poster that someone brought, captured by the ABC broadcast team that day at Florida Field–ah, what a classic.1991

The ’91 Gators were Spurrier’s best team until the 1995 or ’96 team, and it seemed like every week they were breaking school records. After beating Kentucky the week before FSU, Florida clinched its first ever official SEC Championship Title; 84 seasons of football at UF and finally a Championship that no one could touch. FSU, on the other hand, was resting up on a bye week after losing one of those “Wide Right” games against Miami. I think it may have been the year when Bowden ran down the sidelines after he thought his kicker made it, but that’s neither here nor there.

This game was widely known, and remembered well, as one of the loudest games in the history of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. One thing I love about this game is something in the stands that I believe was organized by the students at UF. Every time the FSU marching band played the War Chant (typically played after every play and twice after punts) the entire student section followed by the rest of the Gator fans booed it out. That’s right, they just drowned out that awful chant as if it was never there, the way God intended things. I’ve always admired that.

The game was unseasonably hot in Gainesville, (as if seasons are an actual thing down there) and the heat only added to what became the most hard-hitting, cringe-worthy defensive battle in rivalry history. An Erricht Rhett touchdown run, later followed by a deep bomb from Shane Matthews to Harrison Houston put the Gators up 14-3 in the 2nd half. But a couple of turnovers and poor special teams kept the ‘Noles in the ballgame, and quarterback Casey Weldon fought through a demonic Gator rush to put FSU in a position to win it. About that rush, watch the game. It was like Weldon had three offensive linemen instead of five the whole game.

Weldon brought FSU into the red zone with under two minutes to play, down 14-9 and with a chance to break Gator hearts yet again (FSU had won four in a row). On 4th and goal, however, Gator defensive back Will White broke up an end zone bound lob-pass, and it was finally over. For the first time, Florida was an SEC Champ, a 10-win SEC Champ, And it finally had beaten FSU.

“It was one of the most emotional games I think I’ve ever seen as a player or as a coach,” Spurrier said after the win. “There was constant electricity, and it seemed the game depended on every play.

3. November 20, 2004: Florida 20, #10 Florida State 13

It seemed like a safe bet for the Seminoles; the school decided to dedicate the field at Doak Campbell Stadium to legendary coach Bobby Bowden before this installment of the Florida-Florida State rivalry (fun fact: this game was UF’s 1,000th game in program history). Florida hadn’t beaten FSU in Tallahassee since Bell-to-Nattiel in 1986, nearly two decades of frustration which included plenty of lopsided wins for the ‘Noles on their home turf over the Gators in that span.

Surely the Gators wouldn’t break the streak that day–the 6-4, lowly Gators that played uninspired all year and now with a lame duck coach that never should have been hired in the first place. But it destiny were to manifest itself and tell me that Zook was hired for the sole purpose to beat FSU on Bobby Bowden Field Day and nothing else…then I’ll say that Zook’s three seasons at Florida were worth it. The 2004 FSU team certainly wasn’t one of their vintage top 10 teams, but the Gators had lost every big game it played. LSU beat the Gators in a night game in The Swamp, Richt finally led UGA to his first win over UF, and 2004 just so happens to be the last time Tennessee beat Florida. George W. Bush was in the middle of running for his second term during that moment. Long time ago, gang.

Bobby Bowden Field was born the day of November 20, 2004, and just before the clock struck midnight, the field was renamed and henceforth referred to as Ron Zook Field.

Little did we all know, this Gator team had many of the pieces that would contribute to a National Championship season just two years later–Leak, Wynn, Baker, Caldwell, Siler, Everett, McDonald, and Wilbur the punter. This was a talented team that rose to the occasion, and the feeling of disrespect they felt after hearing the field would be dedicated to Bowden before the game added fuel to a Gator squad that was out for revenge. That’s right–The Swindle in The Swamp. If any hack FSU writer has a list like mine but for FSU victories, I’m sure it’s in his top 5.To lose the way they did in 2003, with drunk hobos masquerading as either or college football officials or paid FSU insurgents (still not sure, but is there really much of a difference?), they knew beating Florida State fair and square was the only thing to right that horrible wrong.

Florida struck first in the opening quarter, driving the ball 98 yards on the arm of Chris Leak, who found Chad Jackson in the left quarter of the end zone for six. 7-0, Gators. And FSU played catch up all night. The star of the game was running back Ciatrick Fason, with whom I spoke about this game in great detail last Spring. Fason was the only back to rush for over 100 yards on the ‘Noles, and his touchdown run on 3rd and goal put the Gators up 20-10 in the 4th quarter. Chris Rix tried playing the role of Gator killer, but was picked off by Jarvis Herring with under a minute to play. The streak was over. The field was dedicated to Bowden, but renamed by Zook. (Note: this year’s game is at The Swamp, next year the series goes back to Zook’s turf.

2. November 22, 1997: #10 Florida 32, #2 Florida State 29

For the first time ever, the SEC Championship Game would not include Florida, as the ’97 Gators were unable to defend its throne, but fought its way through a tough rebuilding year.

Next best thing? Ruin FSU’s season.

FSU was undefeated, ranked #1 in the Coaches’ Poll, and a double-digit favorite to beat the same school that handed it a 32 point beat-down in the Sugar Bowl only 10 months prior. College Gameday was in town for the festivites, and, in unison, picked FSU to in a ballgame that could turn ugly for the Gators. By the looks of it, the Seminoles drank the Kool Aid and punched tickets to the Orange Bowl before taking care of business in The Swamp.

The Gators were pissed–there’s really not a better way to put it in such few words. Most notably the defense, led by guys like Jevon Kearse, Mike Peterson, Fred Weary, Ed Chester, Johnny Rutledge, and Teako Brown. And things were about to get heated before the game even started. FSU players approached the “F”at midfield and began dancing and stomping–Kearse was the first to meet them, and suddenly, just about the entire roster of both teams were brawling it out during pregame warm-ups.

Nobody was hurt or punished for what happened, but a message was sent: the Gators would protect The Swamp with every ounce of life they had. (You payin’ attention, 2015 Gators? Go watch this game on YouTube.)

Besides the fight, I’ve had family members who went to the game tell me about a badass moment of leadership by All-American corner Fred Weary before the game. Weary was warming up with the DB’s, but was walking into their huddle with a newspaper article and a ruler. The article was obviously a piece predicting a big win for Bowden and the ‘Noles, and Weary tore it to bits; He jumped to the top of the huddle, patting the article with his the ruler in a high school principal-like manor, and preceded to rip the entire thing apart as he and his teammates kept adding fuel to their rampage.

The last great thing about what happened before kickoff was the birth of the all-blue uniforms. Yes, I know Florida sported all blue a handful of times before 1997, but this was the game that I believe convinced Spurrier to add it into the rotation, or at least keep it as an option for teams he felt deserved to go all-blue. The 2001 team did for a couple games. Anyway, the Gators came out in the traditional blue tops, white bottoms during warm ups, but switched to blue pants before they ran out of the tunnel. It really fired the crowd up.

The ’97 game is known as “The Best Game Ever Played in The Swamp” and I seriously doubt we’ll ever see one that comes close. You have to keep in mind that this was the absolute height of the Florida-FSU rivalry. Between 1990 and 1997, the Gators and Seminoles met nine times, twice in the Sugar Bowl. Each of those match ups featured top 10 teams–top 5 in three meetings. (Really let that sink in, because the streak lasted for three more seasons: ’98-’00 were all top 5 match ups and ’01 would have been but FSU was No. 20. That’s 13 straight meetings between top 10 teams, six of which were meetings in the top 5. Unreal, and unmatched by any other rivalry.

Florida drove 80+ yards to open the game, converting a fourth down on a razzle dazzle play, and used rotating quarterback system between senior walk-on Noah Brindise and gunslinger Doug Johnson. It was a gutsy but brilliant strategy by Spurrier, who was able to directly influence his quarterbacks after every play. It was also a necessary move because Spurrier would later admit he was hearing that FSU had stolen his play signals.

The Gator defense executed a beautiful gameplan by DC Bob Stoops all day, but the Gators fell behind 17-6 after two Fred Taylor fumbles directly led to 10 points for FSU. Taylor was benched and sat by himself as he reflected on his career during the biggest gut check of his life. Meanwhile, Florida got back into the ballgame just before the ‘Noles switched it to cruise control. Brindise found Travis McGriff on a bomb, and Johnson found him in the endzone the next play to make it 17-12. After picking off FSU’s Thad Busby (or Bad Busboy) Florida’s offense got to work and Taylor punched it in for the second time in the half. At halftime, the Gators led 18-17.quez

Wide receiver Jacquez Green and Fred Taylor would both play the role of hero in a second half that went back and forth on almost every drive. FSU got up 20-18, then Florida 25-20, and FSU again 26-25 deep into the 4th quarter. With first and goal inside the 10 yard line, Florida’s defense saved the day yet again by keeping ‘Nole ball-carriers out of the end zone three times. On 4th down, Bowden went against his gut feeling and sent Sebastian Janikowski to boot another field goal. And of course, he nailed it, and like many FSU players of that era, took the opportunity upon himself to make his bush league school look bad on national television. Janikowski directed himself towards the UF students, and squatted up and down as he mocked the Gator chomp with his arms. I’m so glad he did that.

Because when Florida got the ball back on its 20, Johnson saw the FSU defense playing tight man coverage with only one deep safety. Johnson have his best receiver Green a hook-n-go hand check, and Green got “BEHIND THE DEFENSE” and under a perfect aerial strike to take it 63 yards. A few plays later, Fred Taylor was in the end zone for the fourth time. Linebacker Dwayne Thomas picked off a Busby duck on the next possession, and the Gators would win 32-29. Florida would finish in the top 5 at the end of the season after knocking off Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.

1. January 2, 1997, The Nokia Sugar Bowl: #3 Florida 52, #1 Florida State 20

Florida’s first National Championship in football came in a rematch against #1 undefeated FSU in the Sugar Bowl. The school’s first Heisman winner was coaching the second, one Danny Wuerffel. And the Gators won by 32 points, the largest margin of defeat experienced by a No. 1 team ever. As Mick Hubert said, “How sweet it is.”

If you’re in a tight argument against a skilled and cunning FSU fan, just relax when you hear about Choke at Doak and Ward to Dunn. You have 52-20 in the National Championship, Hilliard’s Stop-Pop-n-Score, Terry Jackson all the way, Spurrier running it up. Wuerffel having the last laugh after the illegal hits he took in Tally.

And Bowden, finally the Gators gave Bowden something he could never return. By the way, after the ’97 game in The Swamp, Bowden told a reporter, “I’d rather lose 52-20 than the way we did today.” The Gators finally got to Bowden after suffering so many heartbreaks at his unmerciful hand.

After losing 24-21 in Doak, the Gators were out of the National Championship picture. FSU was in, and would probably play the No. 2 team, Nebraska. Nebraska was the defending champs and only had to beat a struggling Texas Longhorn team in the Big XII Championship to seal a spot in the Sugar Bowl. But Texas pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Conference Championship history.

That game, coupled with Florida’s 45-30 win over Alabama in Atlanta meant Florida would get the invite to the Sugar Bowl, as the only undefeated team other than FSU, Arizona State, was obligated to play in the Rose Bowl. Remember, this was during the Bowl Alliance, and no matter what the circumstances, the winner of the Pac-10 and the winner of the Big-10 would meet in the Rose Bowl 99% of the time. And because of that, Arizona State (which would have played FSU for it all in a system like the BCS) played Ohio State the day before the Sugar Bowl. Jake Plummer and the Sun Devils were upset in the final minute of the game making January 2, 1997, the day of college football’s championship game. Had ASU beaten the Buckeyes, Florida still very well could have creamed FSU the next day, but ASU would have been your ’96 Champs.11-27-Carlson_tn

But God was smilin’ on the Gators, Spurrier reminded Lynn Swann after Florida’s victory over FSU. 52-20 over your archrival FSU, the ending to a season of destiny for the Gators.

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