FOOTBALL: Mirror Images -- 1990 vs. 2005 (part 2)

On September 3, the Wyoming Cowboys will invade The Swamp to begin the Urban Meyer era of Florida Gator football. Flash back to the 1990 season when on September 8 the Oklahoma State Cowboys traveled to Gainesville to initiate the 12 greatest years of Gator football under the direction of Steve Spurrier. While some may wish to consult their tarot cards as to any real significance this may have, the rest may read on and discover the similarities of the Mirror Seasons 1990/2005.

(Part II of a Series)

Wyoming State Cowboy football will not strike fear into the hearts of many Gator football fans, but based on recent seasons, the Gators do not appear to be causing many listless nights for Cowboy fans.

When the Oklahoma State Cowboys visited Florida Field --- soon to be known as The Swamp --- they were not just another directional school that the Gators would feast on for the remainder of the decade. The Cowboys were only a season removed from having Barry Sanders in their backfield and a 1988 record of 10-2. While their 1989 campaign was a disappointing one with only four wins, on paper they were still a formidable foe for a new coach to begin his stint at Florida, particularly one that would open with a former sixth string quarterback (Shane Matthews) with all of two snaps under his belt in two previous years.

While Wyoming is not an SEC powerhouse, the Cowboys did win a bowl game against UCLA to conclude the 2004 season and as Urban Meyer told the anxious fan on Under The Lights, "repeat after me, Wyoming on September 3rd."

The 1990 team was able to jump on top of the Cowboys in 1990, scoring on the opening drive with six straight passes from a no-huddle offense. By the time the fans caught their collective breaths, Florida had a 50-7 win and a statement to the rest of the SEC that football would never be played same in the NCAA's most powerful conference. Winning by 43 points with a quarterback that anyone outside of Gainesville or Pascagoula, MS had heard of wasn't just a victory, it was a huge statement.

Defensive coordinators all over the SEC were probably in panic wondering if the score being flashed on televisions everywhere was the correct. The last time the Gators had scored 50 points was two years earlier against Division I-AA Indiana State. Spurrier's offense did it against a Big Eight team with a reputation for playing tough, hard nosed defense. Changes were indeed looming on the football horizon in the SEC. Young, arrogant and brash, Spurrier accomplished exactly what he wanted to do --- throw the ball around, win big and get in the heads of every coach in the league. By the time Spurrier stepped down at Florida, every other school in the SEC had experienced at least one coaching change at the top.

For Gator fans, 2005 has the preseason makings of a dejau experience. This is a flashback to what happened in 1990 and it has the Gator Nation feeling poised and ready for something big to happen. There is a new young coach whose innovative offense should take advantage of speed and talent to put points on the board by the boat loads. It's 1990 all over again without the cloud of probation. Listen to Urban Meyer for five minutes and you cannot help but think back to preseason 1990 when the eyes and ears of college football were tuned in to Gainesville and Steve Spurrier.

Meanwhile, back in Laramie, one would have to think that the Cowboys do not see Florida football in quite the same light as Gator fans. Wyoming fans don't turn out to hear Coach Joe Glenn in droves as Gator fans did for the Urban Meyer tour. Football practices at Wyoming have some onlookers, but it isn't common to have hundreds turn out on a Monday afternoon to watch the team work out in shorts. They probably aren't overly impressed with nearly 60,000 at a spring game even though that's more people in a single stadium than there are in any one city in the entire state (Cheyenne is the largest city with 53,011). Wyoming is the tenth largest state in the nation in terms of square miles but it ranks dead last in population with 493,782 which means there are almost as many people in Alachua and Marion counties combined. So just by demographics alone, it's understandable if they aren't all that excited about playing the Gators. They also see a team that lost five games in each of 2004, 2003 and 2002 and Steve Spurrier is now only another dismissed NFL coach who coaches at the other USC.

If Wyoming's coaching staff is spending its time in the film room watching recent Florida collapses in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State, LSU, Miami, Tennessee and Arkansas, where the Gators allowed mediocrity to camp on their doorsteps, then they're making one huge mistake. Joe Glenn's a bit too smart for that, however. You can bet he's got the staff breaking down hours of Utah film, trying to figure out how that next-century offense matches up with Florida's talent.

I am just as sure that in the summer of 1990 Oklahoma State's coaching staff was poring over Duke film wondering the same things and asking similar questions about the Spurrier offense and the returning Gator talent.

In 1990, Oklahoma State had a bunch of questions but no answers. Will Wyoming face the same fate in 2005? Will 2005 once again mirror 1990?


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