#4 Football's SEC Championship Drought Ends
It had become a birthright for the Florida Gators. In the first nine SEC Championship games, the Gators played in seven, winning the title five times.
But then the Gators' trophy case went dry. UF failed to win the SEC East and failed to reach the SEC Championship for four consecutive years. They returned to their past glory, though, in 2006, and defeated Arkansas, 38-28, to regain their seat on top of the nation's best conference.
Florida's return to Atlanta wasn't easy. First, they had to overcome 17-7 and 20-14 deficits in Knoxville to earn their first SEC win of the season against the Vols, 21-20. After a road loss to Auburn, they were able to hold off late rallies by Georgia and Vanderbilt in the next two games. And then there was the memorable blocked field goal against South Carolina (#6 on our countdown) to prevent a second straight loss to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.
Arkansas reached Atlanta because of a fast start. They won their first seven SEC contests before losing to LSU in their last regular season game. The Razorbacks were making their third appearance in the SEC Championship, losing each of their first two tries.
After a somewhat stagnant first quarter where the Gators took a 3-0 lead on a Chris Hetland 33-yard field goal, the Gators found the end zone twice in the second quarter. After a 9-yard run into the end zone by Chris Leak, he connected with Percy Harvin on a 37-yard touchdown pass to extend the Gator lead, 17-0.
Arkansas didn't go away, though, and scored 21 unanswered points to take a 21-17 lead midway through the third quarter. But at halftime, UCLA upset USC, and the Gators sights were no longer just on an SEC title. They were also looking to earn a trip to the BCS National Championship Game as well.
The Florida special teams regained the lead for the Gators after Wondy Louis-Pierre recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone, giving the Gators a 24-21 lead.
That play was followed by one of the most memorable plays of the '06 season – a 67-yard touchdown run by Harvin, giving UF a 31-21 lead in the first minute of the final quarter. Arkansas answered, cutting the lead to three points, but the Gators put together an 8-play, 80 yard scoring drive to finish off the Razorbacks.
The win gave the Gators their seventh SEC title in UF history.