Historically, Florida is certainly not LSU’s biggest rival. Yet, three national championships combined with an annual grudge match have sparked a fire in the relationship.
This Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, the next chapter of the saga will be written. With the storylines beginning to take shape, it appears that the evening won’t be one to disappoint.
To understand the mood of both sides, you have to go back two seasons. The Gators were fresh off a National Championship, and the Tigers were on their way to their second in five seasons.
Just like this Saturday, the showdown was a primetime event. And by night’s end, primetime football would be the only way to describe what transpired. The sides combined for 139 plays, yet one – where Jacob Hester crossed the goal line on a fourth-down push – decided the outcome.
“I remember sitting there knowing that we had to make plays,” said tight end Richard Dickson. “On fourth down, we did anything to get across the line. We said before each play to leave it all out on the field. There were so many emotions you can’t explain.”
The inability to put words to the night seems to be the common trend, at least around the Tiger locker room.
“There is no way to describe how it felt,” said running back Charles Scott. “But, I remember every moment of it. The game went by fast because we were on edge the whole time.”
The Tigers went on to win the BCS title in January, which meant that the early-October night month’s prior had served as the unofficial passing of the championship torch.
A year later, the rematch carried the same hype that had buzzed that night in Baton Rouge. This time The Swamp in Gainesville served as the ring, and the outcome proved to be equally as different.
While Ricky Jean-Francois said that his comments were misinterpreted, the Gators got a rise out of the LSU defensive tackle’s comments on knocking Heisman winner Tim Tebow out of the game.
If welcoming the No. 4 team in the country were not enough, the Florida locker room now had something new to add to the motivational bulletin board.
By the end of the third quarter, the game was well in hand. The home team held the 34-14 lead, and it was about to get worse. Just seconds into the fourth quarter, Jarrett Lee was intercepted by linebacker Brandon Spikes, who returned the pick 52 yards for the touchdown.
Then came the moment that the Tigers have not forgotten.
A victim of uncontrolled emotions, Spikes crossed the goal line, dropped the football and punted it into the stands – almost as if he were throwing in the towel for the beaten Tigers.
“I was standing right behind him,” Scott said. “He had a little swagger about him, and I told him after the game that he didn’t have to do that to us, and he just kind of laughed about it.
“It is something I think about when I think of the game last year,” he added. “They smacked us in the mouth. We have to regroup back at home, watch the game from last year and remember what it felt like.”
Just like LSU the season prior, Florida went on to win the BCS title, their second in three seasons. No need to recollect, but the Tigers took a much different path.
Regardless, both teams are undefeated and back among the top five in the polls.
Two seasons ago, LSU was the more physical team. Last season, UF was the more talented team. This Saturday, the sides will add the next chapter.
Storylines aside, Scott said that he is ready for action.
“Me and some guys were talking about it, and we don’t care if it is Florida or U-High, we are ready to play,” he laughed. “We really want to come out and punch someone in the mouth. It is a whole new attitude.”
Prior to last season it had been 18 years since the previous two National Champions had met, a match up that the home team has never lost. LSU has won four of the last seven meetings between the schools.