This Day in Gator History: Sept. 16

Sept. 16 has been kind to the Florida Gators football team over the years. There have been five games on this date and three of them were as big a win as any in Gator history.

One of those games is the Sept. 16, 2000 game in Neyland Stadium, a Florida 27-23 victory. Another memorable victory over the Volunteers on this date came in 2006, a 21-20 victory at Tennessee in 2006 that was one of several close games the Gators won that season on their way to the Bowl Championship Series National Championship.

Then there was 62-37, the magical score of the 1995 Tennessee game that saw Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning square off in what was one of the most exciting second halfs in Gator football history.

However, the game of the day was a huge Gator victory in Knoxville that helped the Ol’ Ball Coach win his final SEC title. Here’s part of an account on that game provided by the Associated Press:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Jesse Palmer threw a questionable 3-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 14 seconds remaining and No. 6 Florida rallied for an unlikely 27-23 victory over No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday.

With a Neyland Stadium record crowd of 108,768 cheering on the Vols, Tennessee was unable to avoid defeat despite clearly outplaying the Gators.

In losing for the first time at home in 23 games, the Vols lost on a play that will debated for a long time.

On a first-and-goal from the Tennessee 3, Palmer threw a quick strike to Gaffney just over the goal line. Gaffney had the ball for an instant and then dropped it as he was surrounded by two defenders. But line judge Al Matthews ruled it a catch after conferring with referee Al Ford.

Florida (3-0), which has beaten Tennessee (1-1) in seven of their last eight meetings, marched 91 yards on 10 plays for the winning score. Palmer hit Gaffney for 33 yards to the Gators’ 38, and found Reche Caldwell for 21 yards to the Vols’ 5 to set up the winning score.

The Gators would suffer one SEC loss in 2000 to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and would go on to defeat Auburn, 28-6, for the SEC Championship. The Gators had previously defeated Auburn in the regular season.

Gators earning All-SEC first-team honors were WR Jabar Gaffney, OT Kenyatta Walker, CB Lito Sheppard, FS Todd Johnson, OT Mike Pearson and DE Alex Brown.

The Gators have played five games on Sept. 16 and are 4-1 on This Day in Gator History. The first Sept. 16 game was a 35-25 loss to Southern Methodist at Orlando in 1978. The Gators then won at home in 1989 (Louisiana Tech, 34-7) and 1995 (Florida 62, Tennessee 37). The last two – 2000 and 2006 (Florida 21, Tennessee 20) – were played in Knoxville.