Florida-FSU: 20 lasting memories

Depending on your perspective and the year, Florida-Florida State is either a source of eternal joy or immeasurable agony. Here are 20 lasting memories of the Florida-FSU football series starting with the 1960 battle that featured the two tiniest quarterbacks ever to start for either school in this now rabid rivalry.

1. 1960, FLORIDA 3, FLORIDA STATE 0: This was Ray Graves’ first season as Florida’s head coach. At quarterback, the Gators started 5-8, 138-pound Larry Libertore, while the Seminoles started former Gainesville High star Eddie Feely, listed 5-7, 140. The little guys really didn’t have much say in the outcome. It was all about defense and Gene Ellenson’s troops got the job done and made a field goal stand up. One week later, the Gators beat Georgia Tech, 18-17, in perhaps the most important game of the modern era of Florida football at that point in time.

2. 1965, FLORIDA 30, FLORIDA STATE 17: This was the Spurrier-to-Casey game. The Seminoles scored with just under two minutes to go for a 17-16 lead but Steve Spurrier ran the two-minute drill perfectly to get the Gators to the FSU 25. Charlie Casey was supposed to run an out route on the next play, but as he rolled right, Spurrier saw FSU had no safety help. He waved Casey to break off the route and head for the end zone, then lofted the perfect pass that Casey ran under for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. FSU tried a comeback of its own but when Ed King threw high to Max Wettstein at midfield, Allen Trammel picked it off and ran it back for an icing on the cake touchdown.

3. 1966, FLORIDA 22, FLORIDA STATE 19: Seminole fans still get in a lather about this one. The Gators took a 22-19 lead on a 41-yard Spurrier to Larry Smith touchdown pass, but the Seminoles had time for one last shot of their own. With 26 seconds left, Gary Pajcic launched a pass into the end zone to Lane Fenner, who apparently caught the ball as he hit the turf with his foot and knee dragging the ground. The only problem was official Doug Moseley ruled that Fenner juggled the ball and called it incomplete. FSU still marks the spot on the field at Doak Campbell Stadium where Pajcic threw the pass.

4. 1969, FLORIDA 21, FLORIDA STATE 6: This was the “Cappleman Sandwich” game when Jack Youngblood and Robert Harrell agreed to meet at the quarterback. The two of them made life miserable for Cappleman, FSU’s record-setting quarterback, who was sacked 11 times for 91 yards, five of them by Youngblood, who had four sacks and a field goal the year before in Tallahassee. John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez sliced and diced the FSU secondary and the defense, which had given up 69 points the previous two games, made the Seminoles their personal whipping boys.

5. 1980, FLORIDA STATE 17, FLORIDA 13: Charley Pell went into the FSU locker room immediately after the game to congratulate Bobby Bowden and the third-ranked Seminoles. His teeth were grinding on the walk back to the Florida locker. When he marched in, he told the Gators, “Gentlemen, I just did something I’m never going to do again. I just congratulated Bobby Bowden and his team for beating us. I guarantee you, we will never lose to them again as long as I’m the head coach here.” Pell was only Florida’s head coach three more years, but the Seminoles never beat him again and the Gators didn’t lose to FSU again until 1987.

6. FLORIDA 53, FLORIDA STATE 14: This was an unmerciful beatdown. Pell wanted to inflict as much pain as possible to the Seminoles. Before the game, Wilber Marshall stood at midfield taunting Bowden and the Seminoles, then proceeded to knock two FSU quarterbacks out of the game. FSU All-American running back Greg Allen took himself out of the game after one particularly vicious hit from Marshall and refused to re-enter the game.

7. 1991, FLORIDA 14, FLORIDA STATE 9: This is perhaps the best defensive game ever played at The Swamp. The game-winning touchdown came on a jump ball of a pass that Shane Matthews threw to Harrison Houston near midfield. Matthews’ close friend and former high school teammate Terrell Buckley leaped high with Houston, but Houston made the catch and T-Buck fell to the ground. Houston sprinted into the end zone for what was the game-winning touchdown. The Gators saved the win with a great defensive stand in the final two minutes when they forced Casey Weldon into a bad throw on fourth down into the end zone. Florida’s defensive line of Darren Mickell, Brad Culpepper, Tony McCoy and Harvey Thomas gave Weldon a beating he will never forget with a relentless, fierce pass rush. Spurrier outfoxed Bowden in the fourth quarter in two punting situations by running the offense on the field and the punt unit off. Caught by surprise, Bowden had to call two time outs. When FSU was inside the Florida 20 in the last two minutes, they had no time outs remaining.

8. 1993, FLORIDA STATE 33, FLORIDA 21: The Swamp was deafening after Terry Dean and Jack Jackson connected on a touchdown pass that Jackson tipped to himself, closing the gap to 26-21 with less than three minutes to play. Florida was one play away from stopping the Seminoles and getting the ball back but Charlie Ward miraculously escaped the grasp of Mark Campbell and flipped a screen pass to Warrick Dunn, who outran the UF defense 70 yards for a touchdown.

9. 1994, FLORIDA 31, FLORIDA STATE 31: The “Choke at Doak.” The Gators led, 28-3, going into the fourth quarter but it was a defensive meltdown the rest of the way. FSU scored four straight touchdowns but with a chance to go for two and win (no overtime at that time in college football), Bobby Bowden played it safe and kicked for the tie. There is no way the Gators could have stopped the Seminoles if they had gone for two.

10. 1996, FLORIDA STATE 24, FLORIDA 21: This was #1 Florida vs. #2 FSU, both teams unbeaten. Florida had a patchwork offensive line due to injuries and the Gators had their hands full with the nation’s best pass rush unit of Peter Boulware, Reinard Wilson and Andre Wadsworth. On the first possession of the game, the Gators marched down the field and were ready to take the lead but Danny Wuerffel’s pass to Reidel Anthony on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone hung up in the wind and was picked off, an omen of things to come. Florida couldn’t stop Warrick Dunn and the Seminoles emerged unbeaten and #1.

11. 1996, FLORIDA 52, FSU 20: This was Pre-BCS so the Gators had to have a lot of help to make a Sugar Bowl rematch of Florida-FSU the national championship game. On the same day the Gators won the SEC Championship one week after losing to FSU, Texas upset Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game. That got the Gators the rematch with the Seminoles on January 2. On January 1, previously unbeaten, #2-ranked Arizona State lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. That turned the Sugar Bowl into the national championship game. In the Sugar Bowl, the Gators went shotgun to protect Wuerffel and with time to throw, Florida was unstoppable. Wuerffel threw for 394 yards and gave FSU a 52-20 beatdown for the first football national championship in UF history.

12. 1997, FLORIDA 32, FLORIDA STATE 29: FSU was unbeaten, ranked third and a prohibitive favorite over a Florida team that had lost by 20 to Georgia, the only time Spurrier ever lost to Georgia when he was Florida’s head coach. All FSU had to do was beat the Gators for a shot at the national championship against Nebraska. Spurrier alternated quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise nearly every play. Florida State held a 29-25 lead late in the game when Johnson connected with Jacquez Green for a 62-yard pass play that set up Fred Taylor’s game-winning touchdown run. Taylor finished with 162 rushing yards.

13. 2003, FLORIDA STATE 38, FLORIDA 34: Had there been instant replay the Gators would have won this game by 20 points. It’s known as “The Swindle in the Swamp” for a good reason. With today’s replay rules no fewer than five calls by Jack Childress and his ACC officiating crew would have been reversed. Even with the horrendous officiating, the Gators pulled ahead, 34-31, with 2:50 left on a Chris Leak to Ben Troupe touchdown pass but the Seminoles got the win on a Chris Rix to P.K. Sam Hail Mary from 55 yards out with 55 seconds left in the game.

14. 2004, FLORIDA 20, FLORIDA STATE 13: On the day it was named Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Ron Zook owned the joint. It was his final game as Florida’s head coach and behind 103 rushing yards by Ciatrick Fason and 237 passing yards by Chris Leak, the Gators gave Zook a serious sendoff. Fason scored the game-winning touchdown with 4:59 left in the game on an eight-yard run and then the defense held the Seminoles to a field goal with 3:48 left. FSU had one last shot but Jarvis Herring picked off a pass with eight seconds to go. FSU was held to 34 rushing yards by the Gators who began a six-game winning streak over the Seminoles.

15. 2005, FLORIDA 34, FLORIDA STATE 7: This was the “our way or their way” game for the Gators according to Urban Meyer. A huge recruiting class awaited the winner. The Gators broke it open in the second quarter when Marcus Thomas blocked a field goal and Reggie Lewis returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. Freshman Avery Atkins, pressed into action because Vernell Brown was sidelined with a broken foot, picked off a pass in the second quarter and later recovered a fumble in the fourth to stop an FSU drive. In an emotional Florida’s locker room after the game, the commitments started pouring in. Within the next two weeks, the Gators got commitments from Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.

16. 2006, FLORIDA 21, FLORIDA STATE 14: Florida took a 14-0 lead on a 41-yard touchdown run by Percy Harvin in the second quarter but when Harvin was knocked out of the game one series later, the offense stagnated and the Seminoles tied the game 14-14 early in the fourth quarter. The Gators answered with a textbook, 10-play, 74-yard drive, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Chris Leak to Dallas Baker with 10:22 remaining in the game. In the final 10 minutes, the Gator defense came up with three stops on fourth down. Florida won the SEC championship the next week and a month later captured the first of two national championships under Urban Meyer.

17. 2007, FLORIDA 45, FLORIDA STATE 12: The week before the game, FSU’s Geno Hayes publicly dissed Tim Tebow, which wasn’t very smart. FSU scored on a first possession field goal, but Florida answered with a 68-yard scoring drive, the last 23 yards courtesy of Tebow who ran over Hayes on way to the touchdown. Tebow pretty much sealed up the Heisman Trophy by rushing for 89 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 262 yards and three more. Harvin delivered 167 rushing yards and one touchdown, plus caught five passes for another 67 yards.

18. 2008, FLORIDA 45, FLORIDA STATE 15: The “Tebow Braveheart” game, played in a torrential downpour at Doak Campbell Stadium, is remembered for a four-yard touchdown run by Tebow who went face first into the end zone turf. When Tebow jumped up and removed his helmet, the end zone paint had smeared his face. He looked like William Wallace from the movie “Braveheart.” It is also a game that FSU’s James Robinson will never forget. Midway through the second quarter, Tebow took off on a 24-yard quarterback draw. Robinson made the mistake of getting in the way. He looked like he had been flattened by a runaway freight train after Tebow destroyed him

19. 2009, FLORIDA 37, FLORIDA STATE 10: Tebow made his Senior Day memorable by rushing for 90 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 221 and three more touchdowns. Florida ran for 320 yards with Jeff Demps breaking off a 62-yard run and Chris Rainey snapping off a 45-yarder. In four games against FSU, Tebow’s numbers were 48-262 and five touchdowns rushing; 48-71 for 609 yards and nine touchdowns passing with zero interceptions.

20. 2012, FLORIDA 37, FLORIDA STATE 26: The lights went on for the Gators in the fourth quarter as they scored 24 unanswered points to go from a 20-13 deficit to a 37-20 lead in this battle of once-beaten teams in Tallahassee. The play that turned it around was when Antonio Morrison sacked E.J. Manuel early in the fourth quarter and Dominique Easley recovered on the FSU 37. On Florida’s first play, Mike Gillislee blew through the line and took it to the house for the touchdown that gave the Gators a 23-20 lead. Leading 30-20 later in the quarter after a Jeff Driskel to Quinton Dunbar touchdown pass, the Gators snuffed out an FSU drive with a fourth down stop. Three plays later, all of them runs by Matt Jones, the Gators were up 37-20 and on cruise control.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.