Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: croc huntin'

(Editor's Note: Yes, I'm very well aware that the University of Florida's sports teams' mascot is the Gators, not crocodiles. I thought it sounded funny. OK? OK.)

Any objective history of the relationship between Alabama and Florida should note that the two teams just don't play that often — in this decade, they've met exactly twice: in 2005 and 2006. In fact, since the conference split into divisions, the regular season meetings have been as follows:
1998: Florida 16, Alabama 10. I have little to no recollection of this game, except for Andrew Zow throwing a late INT and my dad flipping out like a person with Tourrette's.
1999: Alabama 40, Florida 39 (OT). The famous "extra point" game — with its head coach's future at the school teetering on the brink, Alabama mustered up the game of its life, playing Florida off its feet, recovering a late fumbled punt (the key to this game) and forcing overtime.
And then this happened.

2005: Alabama 31, Florida 3. Easily the biggest game of Mike Shula's tenure at Alabama — the Tide simply had to beat Florida that day. Even now it marks one of two times Mike Shula's offense functioned at a truly high level (the other was two weeks earlier vs. South Carolina). Throw in the fact that Urban Meyer was coaching the Gators and it's hard to believe this game even happened.

Not pictured in that highlight reel: Tyrone Prothro's lower-leg fracture. And for good reason.
2006: Florida 28, Alabama 13. I had to look this one up as well, as my only real memory of it involves Prince Hall returning a fumble for a touchdown. Alabama actually led the game game well into the third quarter, before the Gators put a touchdown drive together to take control. A John Parker pick-6 sealed the deal.

And that's really it in terms of regular season meetings. The Gators come back to Tuscaloosa next October in what should be another fantastic atmosphere (brief aside: ordinarily in even years, the home schedule has kind of sucked, but not next year: Penn State, Florida, Ole Miss and Auburn all come to town, and that's not even counting the visit from Bill Curry's Georgia State program).
In any case, the "rivalry" between Alabama and Florida exists in the SEC Championship Game. Here is their history there:
1992: Alabama was in position to play for the title, and Steve Spurrier had yet to really establish his reputation as evil genius. This was the beginning.

1993: Florida 28, Alabama 13. As with the '98 game, I have little memory of this game, probably because I was on a Boy Scout campout and didn't watch it. I do remember Jay Barker didn't play in the game after he hurt his knee against Auburn. And apparently Antonio Langham didn't either — he'd been suspended because of the cloud of an impending NCAA investigation.
1994: Florida 24, Alabama 23. Once again, I didn't actually watch this game because (wait for it) I was in a concert band that started playing at halftime. When last I saw, Alabama was leading. I think.
(Fun fact: this was the first SEC Championship Game played in Atlanta. Somehow the game wound up at Legion Field the first two seasons.)
1996: Florida 45, Alabama 30. Because of its blitzing of the Tide — the best defense in the country at that point — in Gene Stallings' last SEC Championship Game, the Gators actually played themselves back into national championship contention, earning a Sugar Bowl bid and beating Florida State for the crown, roughly 6 weeks after losing to the 'Noles at Doak Campbell Stadium. One other funny memory I have about this game: Steve Spurrier spent much of the month leading up to the Sugar Bowl comparing Alabama's defense to FSU's, basically saying Alabama's was just as good but didn't play dirty, the reason they'd struggled vs. one but not the other. Evidently the ploy worked — Florida was barely challenged by FSU in the rematch, and was voted national champs after Arizona State (the other undefeated team) lost in the Rose to Ohio State.
1999: Alabama 34, Florida 7. Looking back, the game was an incredible one for multiple reasons:
  • It was the first rematch in SEC Championship Game history.
  • It marked the denouement of an incredibly weird season: the coach had a fling with his secretary that came to light during preseason practice; the team lost to Louisiana Tech in Week 3 (and the coach appeared to be fired); somehow it rallied to beat Florida on the road, Mississippi State (undefeated at the time) and become the first Alabama team to win at Auburn.
  • Um, Mike Dubose beat Steve Spurrier, head-to-head, twice in one season.

Safe to say, this was one of those "lightning-in-a-bottle" moments. And I won't even go into what was going on with me personally at the time.
2008: Florida 31, Alabama 20. Um, you know what happened in this one. It's not really even worth repeating.

And that's really it. That's the entire history of Alabama-Florida since 1992.
Here's to a new chapter. Roll Tide.

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