Saturday’s game between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes is a homecoming of sorts for some players on Florida’s roster. Defensive backs Hugh Miles, Jabari Gorman, Cody Riggs, Marcus Roberson. Wide receivers Quinton Dunbar and Chris Maignan. Fullback Gideon Ajagbe and defensive lineman Brian Cox Jr. all call South Florida home.
“I mean, just very excited to go back home and play on my home turf. Just to play there should be very exciting,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar — a Miami native — not only will be playing on home ground, he’ll also be playing against his cousin, Miami LB Denzel Perryman, and in front of the 20 family and friends he got tickets for.
The rivalry as we know it isn’t dying, it’s already dead; Saturday will simply be a closing of the coffin. The teams that used to meet annually have only faced each other in regular season competition three times since 1987 –a 31-4 Miami victory. Thanks to a need to maximize revenue and SEC’s push to add a ninth conference game, the series is ending for the foreseeable future.
Gators AD Jermey Foley says only legit chance for Florida and Miami to play again in regular season will be a neutral-site game
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) September 2, 2013
That reality is a bitter pill to swallow for one player.
“I didn’t know that, I thought we played them again. That’s kind of sad. Two big time programs in the state that don’t play each other. I would hope to play them every year. Hopefully times can go back to old times but that is kind of disappointing that this might be the last time,” Riggs — a Fort Lauderdale native — said.
“The times they are a-changin’, ” something Bob Dylan sung first in 1964 — the year Florida beat Miami 12-10 in Gainesville — rings true about many things in life, and the Florida-Miami rivalry is certainly one of them. The days of the Gator flop are over. While Brock Berlin — an honorary captain for the Hurricanes Saturday — may have the same middle name to Gator fans that Bucky Dent has to Boston Red Sox fans, the sting of his 2003 38-33 comeback is now a decade old. Without coach Will Muschamp’s rivalry education this week would Florida’s players even have ever heard of the Seminole War Canoe?
Who knows, but Florida-Miami No. 55 may have a different tone. It will be a showcase for family and friends played by family and friends. Former high school teammates, all-star game roommates, cousins, childhood friends will get together at Sun Life Stadium Saturday. That’s not to say that the stakes don’t feel high for Florida’s players.
“I’ve waited a long time to play Miami, so of course it feels like a rivalry,” Riggs said. Riggs also agreed that this week feels like the build up to a Georgia or a Florida State game. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, that’s what Marcus Roberson may believe about his relationship with Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett.
“I mean, we both competitors so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a battle between us. It’s going to be fun just to play each other knowing that we came from elementary together and went to the same high school. Always like to compete,” Roberson said. Both are also natives of Fort Lauderdale.
So what will Saturday be? The answer is a little bit of everything. A dash of rivalry, with 54 games during the span of 27,356 days from the first game — a 19-7 Miami victory in 1938 — to what may be the last, at least for now. It will have a smidgen of reunion, with some Gators reuniting with old companions and former teammates on the opposite sidelines. It will also be a touch of homecoming, with many Florida players returning home to play in front of loved ones.
At the end of the day, those things combine to make this year’s Florida-Miami game one thing:
“It’s fun. I mean, it’s fun, to get to go back and play in front of my family that’s not able to come up and watch the games here,” Roberson said. “It’s going to be fun.”