Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Florida Football History

This week is a pretty historic week for Texas A&M as we host the Florida Gators in our first conference game as a member of the Southeastern Conference.  Throw in the fact that last week's game was postponed so we had an entire slate of games over the holiday weekend to up the college football itch .  Then to top it all off, College Gameday has decided to host their show from Kyle Field this week.  It's like taunting a bear with slab of beef.

Do bears even eat beef?  Who cares - IT'S TIME FOR SOME AGGIE FOOTBALL!

The new affiliation with the SEC is great on an infinate number of levels but one of those is that we get to play a bunch of incredible teams that we don't know too intimately.  That means I get to do some research on these programs, which I love.

The Florida Gator's history can be summed up with two names: Steve Spurrier & Tim Tebow.

Certainly, Danny Wuerffel and Urban Meyer should be mentioned when talking about Gator football history, but let's be honest, they are the Pippen to Spurrier and Tebow's Jordan.

For all intents and purposes, the Gators were just another team with a nicely tanned fanbase and a handful of 8-3, 9-2, 7-4 seasons scattered through their school's first 85 years of football.


The Gators had their first run of success in the 1960s under the leadership of Ray Graves.  They won 9 games in '60, '66, and '69.  The '66 squad made it to their first Orange Bowl and was led by their Heisman winning QB - none other than Steve Spurrier.

In 1965 the Gators did something else to bring fame to the school.  They created Gatorade.  They were pretty creative with the name, right?

I bet you didn't know that was Spurrier throwing the old pigskin around in that commercial until just now.  Boom - learned something new today.

The 1970s were not a really memorable time in Gainesville with the pinnacle being a '74 Sugar Bowl appearance.  In 1984, head coach Charley Pell was fired mid-season when it came out that Florida was being charged with over 100 major NCAA infractions.  This was one of the best Gator squads in their history and after winning what should have been the school's first SEC Championship, the Gators had to hang their heads as the title was stripped from them.  Galen Hall took over for Pell, and coached Emmitt Smith during his time with the Gators, before he was forced out with his own NCAA infractions.  Gary Darnell finished the 1989 season as HC.  LOL.

It took from 1932, when the Gators were founding members of the SEC, until 1991 for them to win their first conference championship.  Care to take a guess what changed?  The Gators hired Steve Spurrier as their new head coach prior to the 1990 season. 

Guess what else?  Spurrier actually led his squad to a first place finish in 1990 too, but they were ineligible for the title due to the NCAA infractions by Hall.

Steve Spurrier took the conference by storm, not just by winning, and not just winning right out the gate, but by winning in a fashion few had ever seen.  The dude lit up the scoreboard, didn't take his foot off the gas for anybody, and then wouldn't appologize for the waves it caused.

Since 1991 the Florida Gators have been one of the most powerful programs in the country winning almost 40% of the SEC Conference titles (8 in 21 seasons).

Spurrier's biggest success story was QB Danny Wuerffel.  The QB led the Gators to four consecutive SEC titles from 1993-1996, back-to-back National Championship games (winning in 1996), and he brought the Heisman Trophy back to Gainesville for the first time since Spurrier's own. 

Following the 2001 season, Spurrier left the Gators to take the head job for the Washington Redskins in the NFL and Ron Zook was dubbed his replacement.  Zook recruited well but couldn't get it done on the field - he was fired midway through 2004 (his third season).

Enter Urban Meyer.  Meyer had just finished launching the Utah Utes, then of the MWC, into the national spotlight with an undefeated season ending with a Fiesta Bowl win.  He lost two games while at Utah - including one at Kyle Field in 2003.  I think Ags have all done our best to completely block out the memory of his revenge in the '04 season opener.

February 1st, 2006 was the day that changed the Gator program's future.  Tim Tebow signed his letter of intent to join Meyer following the Gators 9-3 season in Meyer's inaugural run in Gainesville.  You all remember how this played out....

In Tebow's freshman season they won the National Championship.  In Tebow's sophomore season he won the Heisman Trophy.  In Tebow's junior season they won the National Championship.  In his senior season he led an undefeated Gator squad into the SEC Championship game where they lost to Alabama 13-12 - one point away from his third National Championship game in four years - and he was a Heisman finalist in his third consecutive season.

Herschel Walker is generally considered the greatest RB in SEC history and held the conference record with 47 career TDs.  Tebow broke that record with 57.  Herschel Walker has 20% fewer rushing TDs than a QB. Herschel Walker!

Don't just look at his career 2,947 yards with 57 TDs on the ground and think "Oh this guy was an option QB."  Why?  Because he also threw for 9,286 with 88 TDs.  To put that into a little bit of context, Jerrod Johnson is the most prolific passer in A&M history with 8,011 yards and 67 TDs.

Tebow left Gainesville as a legitimate candidate for the greatest player in the history of college football.

Urban Meyer "re-retired" after the 2010 season after briefly retiring the spring prior so he could stop ignoring his health and spend more time with his family.  Before the end of the 2011 football season he was named the head coach at Ohio State.

His replacement is Will Muschamp.  The former Georgia DB was one of the best young defensive coordinators in the country moving from LSU to Auburn to texas.  The horns were so afraid of losing him they paid him crazy coordinator money and dubbed him "head coach in waiting"....but he left anyways when Meyer vacated the head seat in Gainsville.

The Gators play their home games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, which is better known simply as "The Swamp".  The Swamp is one of the most intimidating venues in the nation and it is always full (they sold out every home game between 1979-2010) [note: I watched their season opener against Bowling Green and there were at least two sections in one of the corners of the upper deck completely empty - I didn't get to see the rest of the stadium].  I'm looking forward to trying to make it down to Gainesville to take in a game at this legendary venue.

Tickets at Kyle Field are at a crazy premium this year and this ticket is at the top of the list.  Unfortunately for Florida fans, their AD has made getting their hands on them a little more stressful than they should have.  First of all, they're mad we didn't give them more than the league minimum requirement - so they accidentally oversold their allotment.  

They're 924 miles away from College Station and they oversold their allotment.  Last year, in the midst of their greatest season anyone can remember, Baylor had to return 3,000 of the 3,850 tickets we provided them.  They are 90 miles away.  SEC.

As if the overselling of their allotment wasn't enough, they accidentally sold the tickets 20% lower than face value so they had to go back to the fans again and request more money 

After all of that, make sure to give those who make it to Aggieland a nice welcome - they deserve it.

To be honest, I love their helmet decal.  I'm a bit of a sucker for old school logos that look like they were drawn out by hand by some student entering an contest out of the school newspaper - and the SEC is full of those (I'm looking at you Georgia and Ole Miss).  The Gator's helmet is a classic - but they are also one of the Nike schools that gets one of those crazy Pro-Combat uniforms as well and those always look a little more cutting edge/modern/stupid.

Florida is not a school that A&M has a deep history with, like Arkansas or LSU.  We've played them twice - in 1962 at the Swamp (L 42-6) and 1977 in the Sun Bowl (W 37-14).  They are still one of the most prolific college football programs in the country - and this type of matchup is why I've been clamoring for the SEC for years.


1 comment:

  1. The Seminole War Canoe was carved in 1955 out of a cypress struck by lightning and was given to the winner of the annual football game. The canoe is meant to symbolize the fighting spirit of the Seminole people that is often on display during games between the Hurricanes and Gators. The canoe is now on permanent display at the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame on the Coral Gables campus.

    Grassroots football
    Football prediction game