It was once called the “World’s Largest Outdoor cocktail party,” but its official title is now the battle for the Okefenokee Oar. Simply, it is known as the Georgia-Florida game…or the Florida-Georgia game depending on whom you ask. The Gators and Dawgs will meet again in 2014 on Nov. 1 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The 60 minute battle has become much more than just a football game. It serves as a haven for sports fanatics, a weekend vacation for both student bodies and alumni and an interesting game for the entire country to enjoy.
It is easy for fans to point out who a rival is. To point their finger at someone else and say, “I want to beat them no matter what. Those guys over there represent everything that I can’t stand.” Any college sports fan knows that Ohio State vs. Michigan, Texas vs. Oklahoma and Army vs. Navy are the quintessential rivalry games. Contests where players, coaches and fans hate their counterparts across the field and where a national championship can be on the line. In the recent years the SEC has really come forth with amazing rivalry games for the entire country to enjoy.
The Georgia-Florida game, or the Florida-Georgia game, is and will always be one of the SEC’s premier matchups. And like the games mentioned above, the best way to describe this game is, with one word, rivalry. It starts with recruiting; many kids from Florida migrate north to play for the Dawgs, and many kids migrate south from Georgia to play for the Gators. In 2013 the Gators had 12 men from
the state of Georgia on it’s roster, while Georgia had 16 men from the state of Florida. In 2014, Georgia finished with six signees from the state of Florida, including five star running back Sony Michel. In 2013 Florida signed six players from Georgia but signed none from Georgia in 2014. Both of the current head coaches have personal experience with the other team. Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt played for the University of Miami and coached at Florida State, both in-state rivals of the Gators. Florida Head Coach, Will Muschamp, played defensive back and was a captain for the University of Georgia in the 1990’s. He has yet to win a game in the series. At the beginning of the season, fans on both sides ask “will we beat those guys this year?” It is a game where conference and national titles have been decided, and where perfect records can be achieved, or tainted.
Both teams have a history of dramatic wins. Every Dawg fan remembers 1980 and Larry Munson’s unforgettable plea for Georgia wide receiver Lindsay Scott to run. The Dawgs would finish perfect that year and claim its first national championship since 1942. Every Gator
fan remembers 1996 and beating Georgia by 50 in Athens en route to their own National Title. While there are amazing wins, there of course are crushing defeats. The 2002 Dawg’s perfect season came to a close on Nov. 2 when they lost to the Gators inevitably ruining their shot to play for a national championship. On the flip side, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Steve Spurrier, led the undefeated, 7th ranked Gators into Jacksonville in 1966. The country’s best passer was chased all day by what John Brockmann described as a “pack of wolves.” Georgia’s pass rush led by All-American George Patton and future Miami Dolphins star Bill Stanfill harassed Spurrier giving the Gator’s their first loss on the season.
This is the history of the series; close calls, dramatic wins and agonizing defeats. These two teams love to hate each other and it shows during the game and throughout the year.
To this day, both athletic departments still have not agreed on the first date the game was played. The University of Georgia claims that a game was played in 1904 in Macon, Ga., where the Dawgs won 52-0. While this mystery game in Macon can be found in any Georgia program, it won’t be seen in any Florida program. The Gators claim that no such game was played and that the inaugural meeting didn’t happen until 1915 with the Dawgs cruising to 39-0 win in Jacksonville.
99 years and 91 meetings later, both teams boast some of the best players and coaches to ever play college football. Names like Herschel Walker, Emmitt Smith, Frank Sinkwich, Danny Wuerffel, Fran Tarkenton, Jack Youngblood and coaches like Vince Dooley and Steve Spurrier have been seared into the minds of not only those who follow the SEC, but those who follow college football. No matter when the game was first played, it will continue to be played as long as there is college football.
A game of streaks
The Dawgs will go to Jacksonville in 2014 having beaten the Gators three years in a row; a feat that Georgia has not accomplished since the late 1980’s. Before that, Georgia had not won a game since 2007. The Florida-Georgia Game can be described as a game of streaks, with one of the teams asserting their dominance over the other for sometimes more than a decade. Since 1990, that Gators won 18 games against the Dawgs, and all fingers point to Steve Spurrier, the “Ole’ Ball Coach,” turning the tide on what was a Georgia-dominated series. The former Heisman Trophy winner for the Gators started coaching his alma mater in 1990. In 12 years as head coach, Spurrier won a national championship in 1996 with the help of fellow Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Danny Wuerffel, and beat the Dawgs 11 times. Georgia’s only win came in 1997 with star running back, Robert Edwards, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 124 yards. Before Spurrier and the 90’s, the Dawgs enjoyed many years of success. The 1970’s and 80’s belonged to UGA, winning 15 out of 20 matchups.
Streaks are what make this game fun for one side, and truly agonizing for another. Dawg fans had to wait over 20 years to win just two in a row. Georgia now has the momentum, but no one knows when the momentum will sway back to Florida.
Through all the streaks and the history, this rivalry is just that…a rivalry once again. People always say that both teams need to show up to be a rivalry, and for a long time, the Dawgs were nowhere to be found. After the reign of Urban Meyer, who only lost once to the Dawgs in his tenure as Florida head coach from 2005-2010, the Dawgs boast three wins in a row. Will Muschamp needs to get that elusive first win in the series or his seat might be a little bit hotter at the end of the season.
While there is an obvious difference in the distance both schools must travel, Jacksonville is neutral. There is never more of one fan base; the amount of Orange and Blue is always equal to the amount of Red and Black. EverBank Field is like art on that Saturday; the
divide of the clashing colors is perfect. Every fan knows that it’s 40,000 of them against 40,000 of us.
In an interview with Gatorzone.Com writer Scott Carter, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley revealed that both teams will be eligible to wear home jerseys in 2014; The Gator blue and the Bulldog red on the field at the same time. Both teams enter the season with many
questions, but one thing is for sure; come Nov. 1, the eyes of the nation will be on Jacksonville.
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