If you are just looking through the old scores and see this one it might not stand out as that significant of a game. But it was.
You need to go back to 2000 when the Gators traveled to Starkville, Miss., and lost to Jackie Sherrill’s Bulldogs, 47-35. That game was one that Spurrier caught rare heat from the fans. His defensive coordinator, Jon Hoke, was under fire and the Gators had gone three seasons without a SEC crown.
These two tidbits had to burn at Spurrier in the offseason:
* The loss was UF’s first to an unranked team under Spurrier, snapping a nation-best, 72-game winning streak in that category.
* The game marked only the second time in the Spurrier era that Florida has given up 30 or more points in consecutive SEC games (31 vs. Tennessee, 30 vs. Mississippi State in 1992).
The Gators did go on to win the SEC in 2000, which would be Spurrier’s last conference crown, and the Gators would not play for the title again until 2006.
So, when Mississippi State came to the Swamp in 2001 to play the defending SEC Champions, it was probably a game that the Ole Ball Coach had circled when spring practice started in 2001.
Here’s a writeup on the game:
GAINESVILLE—A matchup between the nation’s top passing offense and the nation’s statistically best pass defense never materialized as Florida grabbed an early lead and shut down Mississippi State for a 52-0 shutout victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The win was Florida’s 15th straight against Mississippi State in Gainesville, while the shutout was Florida’s first SEC blanking since a 65-0 victory against Kentucky in 1996 and its first against a ranked team since a win at Tennessee in 1994.
The contest was a stark contrast to the 2000 UF-MSU game played in Starkville when MSU defeated the Gators 47-35 and racked up 517 total offensive yards, including 351 rushing yards, and held the Gators to a school-record low -78 yards rushing.
Florida’s offense put on a sparkling display as it gained 35 first downs and amassed 640 total yards, a total that ranks sixth all-time at UF and tops against a SEC team. Mississippi State entered the game surrendering an average of 68.0 passing yards per game, but in the first quarter alone, Florida had doubled that total with 149 passing yards.
UF finished the day with 507 passing yards, the seventh highest output in SEC history, the second-most passing yards in school history and the most ever against a SEC opponent.
Quarterback Rex Grossman set the school record with his fourth consecutive 300-plus-yard passing performance as he threw for a career-high 393 yards and tied career highs for completions (22 of 31) and touchdown passes (five).
In the first half alone, Grossman was 16 of 21 with four TDs and 317 yards. It was the eighth time in his career that he has thrown for three or more touchdowns. Two Gators went over 100-plus yards receiving in Jabar Gaffney (career-high 9 catches for 159 yards) and Reche Caldwell (5-101 and two TDs).
Florida grabbed an early 21-0 first quarter lead.
On its first offensive series, Florida drove 51 yards on nine plays, ending with Grossman’s one-yard touchdown run, the first TD run of his career. After a Mississippi State missed field-goal attempt, Florida took over at its own 38, drove 72 yards and scored when Grossman found Reche Caldwell wide open on a crossing pattern to give UF a 14-0 lead.
Minutes later following a 28-yard Lito Sheppard punt return and 26-yard Jabar Gaffney reception, Grossman hit tight end Aaron Walker for a 5-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-0.
Grossman found Caldwell open for a 14-yard TD pass and 28-0 second-quarter lead and Taylor Jacobs (3 catches for 95 yards) capped off UF’s scoring when he caught a Grossman pass and scampered 60 yards for a 35-0 halftime lead.
The Gators had their revenge and looked like steamrollers as the season progressed. However, the Gators would lose two games that season and failed to appear in the SEC Championship game. There are a lot of opinions that this was the best Florida team not to win a title.
They may be right.
On This Day in Gator History, the Gators are 5-5-1 with victories against Rollins (1934), Ole Miss (1945) and Mississippi State (1984, 1990, 2001) and losses to Georgia Tech (1951, 1962), Mississippi State (1973, 1979) and Auburn (2007). The tie was against Clemson in 1956.