If someone came up with that story line for a movie, Hollywood would reject it as too unrealistic. But as the saying goes, life is stranger than art. This week marks the first of who knows how many times Steve Spurrier will try and deprive Florida of a possible trip to the SEC Championship game.
Spurrier History Vs Carolina
One of the ironic things about this whole situation is that Steve Spurrier posted some rather remarkable wins over the Gamecocks. The Head Ball Coach was 10-and-0 against South Carolina and most ended up one-sided. However, there were some remarkable games in there. Here's a few of the most notable ones as far as I'm concerned.
14 – 9 in 1992
The first matchup and the closest of them all. The '92 Gators struggled to score points but often found a way to survive. This was the lowest scoring game of the ten, but it was quite significant. A week earlier the Gamecocks had stunned Tennessee, opening the door in the newly created SEC East. A week later Florida beat Vanderbilt and Tennessee completed its collapse sending Florida to the first SEC Championship game.
37 – 26 in '93
The very next year Carolina had a great chance to upset the eighth-ranked Gators. The Gamecocks shot out to a 17-nothing lead and the Florida offense was really sputtering. Spurrier called for a wide receiver screen out of the end zone that was almost intercepted… almost. Jack Jackson took the pass and raced for 65 yards setting up the first Gator score. Florida's offense clicked from that point forward and the Gator defense settled down. Florida went on to the second SEC Title game, winning it over Alabama. It was Spurrier's largest road comeback as the Gators' coach.
63 – 7 in '95
The Gators were undefeated and ranked third while the Gamecocks were trying to become bowl eligible. With a week off and an explosive offense under Steve Tanneyhill the Gamecocks were hopeful. Keep in mind, this team had scored at least 20 in all nine games and topped fifty on four occasions. Their hopes surged on game-day with a kickoff temperature in the 40's with strong winds whipping through Williams-Brice Stadium. Danny Wuerffel was as sharp as he's ever been and Florida scored seven touchdowns in the first half. I was standing next to a police officer in the press box during the halftime break when a voice came over the walkie-talkie, "everyone to your posts, they're leaving!"
Looking out the window I saw hundreds of cars backed up in the parking lot. It was a neutral site in the third quarter and essentially a home game for the final 15 minutes.
41 – 21 in '00
South Carolina brought a 7-and-2 team ranked # 21 to Gainesville. And it was a team that had a week extra to prepare after losing a 17-14 contest to Tennessee. The Gators started horribly and after two blocked punts were looking up at a 21-3 deficit. Then all hell broke loose. A fluke play helped the Gators finally get into the end zone. Florida got a punt return TD from Lito Sheppard on the final play of the first half and rolled the rest of the way. The Gators post 38 unanswered points in the biggest home comeback for S-O-S. On perhaps the most memorable play, offensive lineman Tommy Moody caught a deflected pass and barreled into the end zone.
54 – 17 in '01
As if to prove the previous rally was no fluke, Florida again faced a 7-and-2 Gamecocks squad, this time away from home. A muffed punt opened an early opportunity for Carolina before the fourth-ranked Gators exploded with 44 consecutive points. Over the two seasons, Florida put together two incredible scoring runs totaling 82 unanswered points.
So Steve Spurrier averaged 41 points in ten games against the team he now coaches. The Gamecocks managed just 16. Ron Zook also beat South Carolina every time including a 48-to-14 manhandling last year that was perhaps the most complete performance of the past three years.
Will this week's game be memorable? Count on it… no matter what happens on the field.
Sunday morning I sat down with Steve Spurrier for a conversation about college football, his team and this unique matchup. I encourage you to watch Sun Sports Friday at 6:00 to see the interview on Rec Warehouse College Kickoff. It should also be shown Saturday on a special Florida/Carolina pre-game show beginning at 11:30.