1991: Florida 35, Alabama 0
The 1991 SEC opener for the Florida Gators began their quest for their first official SEC crown under second-year coach, Steve Spurrier.
In 1990, Spurrier’s first year back with his alma mater, the Gators enjoyed the best record in the SEC, but NCAA issues that occurred prior to his tenure did not allow Spurrier or his team to reap the rewards – a first SEC title and a Sugar Bowl bid. That was a bitter pill for the Gators’ Ol’ Ball Coach to swallow.
Spurrier called the 17-13 victory in 1990 over Alabama in Tuscaloosa the biggest of the year as it showed to the conference that the Gators were no longer a team that would lose the big games on the road.
Here’s the Associated Press recap of the game played on Sept. 14, 1991.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Shane Matthews staggered Alabama with two third-quarter touchdown passes and sixth-ranked Florida used a powerful running game keyed by Errict Rhett to finish off the No. 16 Crimson Tide 35-0 Saturday night.
Rhett ran for 170 yards and one TD and Matthews finished with 15 completions in 27 attempts for 251 yards and three TDs as the Gators beat their longtime Southeastern Conference nemesis for the first time in seven tries at Gainesville.
Matthews broke up a defensive struggle with scoring passes of 23 yards to Tre Everett and 13 yards to Willie Jackson after Florida built a 6-0 halftime lead on field goals of 44 and 48 yards by Arden Czyzewski.
Jackson also caught a 12-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, giving him three career receptions – all for touchdowns. Rhett’s 49-yard run set up Jackson’s second TD.
The stats for the game reflected the Gator defensive dominance of the Tide as Alabama turned the ball over five times to the Gators and collected only 257 yards of offense.
The Gators would lose only one game in the regular season, a 38-21 setback at Syracuse on Sept. 21. The regular season ended with a 14-9 victory over Florida State in Gainesville, a triumph that lifted the Gators to No. 3 heading into the Sugar Bowl. But the Gators suffered a 39-28 loss to Notre Dame and finished 10-2.
Post-season awards were numerous for the 1991 team, with Spurrier being named the SEC Coach of the Year. A few of the more significant awards for this team: Junior Shane Matthews repeated as SEC Player of the Year, was a third-team All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman balloting.
Outside linebacker Ephesians Bartley was named to the All-SEC first team and defensive tackle Brad Culpepper was a first-team All-American and the Toyota/ESPN National Leader of the Year. Placekicker Arden Czyzewski, punter Shayne Edge, defensive tackle Tony McCoy, inside linebacker Tim Paulk, running back Errict Rhett and free safety Will White were all first-team All-SEC honorees.
The Gators have played five Sept. 14 games and are 3-1-1 on This Day In Gator History. The first time, in 1963, Florida lost at Georgia Tech 9-0. Then there was a 21-17 victory in 1974 against visiting California. In 1985, Rutgers and Florida played to a 28-28 tie in Gainesville. Finally, there was a 35-6 victory over Ohio in 2002.