VETTEL: Game Much Bigger for Wildcats

Many of my friends in this profession are under the impression that this is the biggest Florida/Kentucky game ever. Well it might very well be for the folks in the Bluegrass State, but certainly not in Gainesville.

For Kentucky, this game is an opportunity to stay in the running for the SEC Eastern Division Title for the first time in school history. It also gives the ‘Cats a chance to try and win an untainted SEC Title for the first time since Bear Bryant was the coach and Babe Parilli was the starting quarterback (1950). Kentucky also "won" the SEC in 1977, but time does not allow me to document all the issues surrounding that team.

However, for the Florida Gators this game is significant, but certainly not historic. In fact there are three games right off the top of my hat that were unquestionably more significant to the Florida program than this Saturday's contest will be.

1980 ----- The Florida Gators headed to Lexington with a 6-2 record, heartbroken over the "Lindsay Scott" loss to Georgia. Still after a winless season the year before, Florida was won win from wrapping up an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl. No school had EVER gone from winless to a bowl bid and keep in mind there weren't 80 bowl games back then. Florida trailed Kentucky late but a great catch by Cris Collinsworth put the Gators in field goal range and Brian Clark won the game as time ran out. I'll never forget how thrilled everyone was at the airport when the team returned and accepted their bowl bid. My how times have changed!

1984 ----- The NCAA was investigating and the SEC was planning to hold a special meeting but that had no impact on what happened on the field. The 1984 Gators wet to Kentucky looking to clinch Florida's first SEC Championship. This was a good Kentucky team (7-2) and they made it very difficult on the Gators. Trailing by eight points late in the game, Kentucky's Bill Ransdell threw a touchdown pass that was negated by an illegal formation penalty (the left tackle was about two yards off the line of scrimmage). Adrian White intercepted Ransdell on the next play, prompting this historic comment from Norm Carlson on the Gator Radio Network, "Oh Adrian, you have no idea what you've just done for Gators everywhere".

1991 ----- Seven years later, the scene was Gainesville and the Gators were still seeking an "official" SEC Title. The 1984 crown had been vacated, and the Gators topped the league standings in '85 and '90 but the record books insisted the Gators had no SEC Championships. That was about to change. The Gators jumped out to a huge lead in the first half, but emotionally they packed for New Orleans in the locker room and stunk up the final 30 minutes. Kentucky quarterback "Pookie" Jones ran wild and made it interesting but the Gators held on for a 35-26 win. Roy Kramer presented the trophy at midfield and more than a half century of futility was exorcised.

So while Kentucky has more on the line in this game than perhaps ever before, for the Gators it's just a chance to stay in the race and try to make the most out of this season. That's a far cry from what those three games were all about for the Orange and Blue.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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