Ex-Gator quarterback Doug Johnson joined me on my radio program Thursday and made it clear he has no love for the boys from Rocky Top. Johnson played in three Florida/Tennessee games including an exhilarating win over Peyton Manning in 1997 and a gut wrenching loss in overtime up in Knoxville the following season.
Johnson will never go down as one of the Gators' all-time greats, but I've long felt he didn't get enough credit for his play at Florida. If it was tough replacing Steve Spurrier for Ron Zook, think about how hard it had to be to replace Danny Wuerffel in 1997. Johnson was a true sophomore who was more volatile and less mature than Wuerffel making for a somewhat combustible mix with the Head Ball Coach. Still he ranks eighth in school history in passing yards (7,114) and sixth in TD passes (62). The Gators won the SEC East just once in his three years as the primary starter, but did post a 20-4 record against SEC opponents.
Here are some highlights from our conversation.
On Tennessee fans:
"I think they have the most obnoxious fans in football. Some say Florida is just obnoxious, but you want to know the difference? We back up what we say. They make more excuses when they lose than any team I've ever heard of."
On playing Tennessee in '97:
"We scored early, but we needed our defense to make a statement that this wasn't going to be a high scoring game and that they were coming to play. I remember Coach Stoops. It seemed like he blitzed every play and I loved him for it.
On what it meant to him to beat Manning:
"It was a big game for us as a team. Personally it was very fulfilling to go out there and play and play well. I'm not saying offensively we didn't make any mistakes but we went out and executed and Coach (Spurrier) called a great game. We threw the ball down the field like we always did and the receivers made plays and the line played great."
On outplaying the Vols decisively but losing in '98:
"Sometimes you play great and lose and sometimes you don't play great but you still win. I think we fumbled twice at their goal line and we had a punt or a kickoff return called back. It was very frustrating, especially since that team went on and won the national championship. I'll tell you, that '98 Tennessee team was the most pathetic winner of a national championship. I've seen some national championship teams that were great and that team isn't even close to that level."
On the rivalry:
"We always respected Tennessee, but we never had the mind set that we wanted to win. We knew we were going to win that game. Most teams that go into a game against the Gators hoping they can win. That's the difference between Florida and the other teams. That's what the University of Florida is all about."
On his plans for Saturday:
"I'm going to be down there (on the field) and I love being in that environment. I've enjoyed working with Timmy (Tebow) in the off-season and getting to know Coach Meyer. I have a world of respect for Scot Loeffler and think he's going to be a head coach some day. He's one of the most qualified and amazing coaches I've been around."
Doug Johnson does not like the Vols
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