- The annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game in Jacksonville is always a treat, and the series' history proves it.
There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned college football rivalry. The combination of history and hatred means the stakes are raised. It’s the game that’s circled every year by players and fans who desperately want to win it, and by coaches whose jobs might depend on them winning it. From a national perspective, the likes of Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, Army-Navy and Notre Dame-USC are considered some of the best rivalries in the sport. But one that isn’t talked about quite as much, and deserves to be, is Florida-Georgia. The game known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has all of the history and hatred of any great rivalry, and it is set to be one of its most important games in years this Saturday. Held in Jacksonville annually, this series has featured chippy moments, petty coaches, and no shortage of painful losses on both sides. Let’s run through some of the best recent games in cocktail party history.
1995: Half a hundred between the hedges (No. 3 Florida 52, Georgia 17)
In 1994 and ’95, the matchup was played on the schools’ campuses for the first time since 1932 due to renovations to Jacksonville’s Municipal Stadium. Florida was feeling good as it traveled to Athens in ’95, possessing an undefeated record and having stomped Georgia 52–14 in Gainesville the year prior. The result was another ugly loss for the Bulldogs, made famous by what took place after the result had been decided. Up four touchdowns, Florida coach Steve Spurrier kept calling passes, including a deep touchdown with 1:10 left to put the Gators over the 50-point mark. After the game, Spurrier grinned and admitted he wanted to become the first team to ever score “half a hundred” at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium.
1997: Georgia snaps losing streak as 20-point dogs (No. 14 Georgia 37, No. 6 Florida 17)
Heading into the 1997 game, Georgia had lost seven straight to Florida since Steve Spurrier took over. Judging by the 20-point spread, the losing streak was fully expected to become eight. Instead, Robert Edwards ran for four touchdowns and Georgia was the team that won by 20. The loss was brutal for Florida; the defending champ Gators had already beaten Peyton Manning and Tennessee, but their second SEC loss meant the Vols won the East division and went on to the national championship game. It wouldn’t sting for too long, though, as Florida bounced back to win the next six in the series. This was Spurrier’s only loss to Georgia in 12 games.
2002: “Florida’s broken our hearts” (No. 22 Florida 20, No. 5 Georgia 13)
Florida dominated the rivalry in the 90s and 2000s, sometimes even when it wasn’t the superior team. Georgia entered the 2002 game 8–0 and dreaming of a national title. The Bulldogs went up 7–0 early, but a pick-six by Florida’s defense and two Rex Grossman touchdown passes propelled the Gators to a late 20–13 lead. With less than three minutes to play, Georgia receiver Terrance Edwards dropped a wide-open deep pass that likely would’ve gone for a game-tying touchdown. The Bulldogs finished 13–1 and No. 3 in the final polls, narrowly missing out on a chance to play for the championship. Legendary Georgia radio broadcaster Larry Munson gave this famous quote after the loss: “Florida’s broken our hearts. They’ve just ripped our hearts out of our chest and stomped on our heart and ruined our national title. They’ve broken our hearts in the dark of Jacksonville night and they don’t care.”
2007: The Gator Stomp (No. 20 Georgia 42, No. 9 Florida 30)
In an effort to fire his team up against the defending BCS champions, Georgia coach Mark Richt planned for all 11 players to go in the end zone and excessively celebrate after the team’s first touchdown. But when Knowshon Moreno ran for the opening score, far more than 11 players took part in the celebration. The entire Georgia team ran from the sideline onto the field and jumped around in glee, creating a unique and peculiar visual. It worked: Moreno ran for two more touchdowns, Matt Stafford threw for three, and Georgia upset Tim Tebow and the Gators.
2008: Urban’s response (No. 5 Florida 49, No. 8 Georgia 10)
Revenge. That was the only thing on the minds of Urban Meyer, Tebow, and the rest of the Gators when they went to Jacksonville in 2008. They got it, and then some. Tebow scored five touchdowns and Florida picked off Stafford three times in a romp. In the closing seconds, Meyer surprisingly called a timeout. Then after one more play, he called another one, making the misery of the crushing defeat linger just a bit longer for Richt and Georgia. Florida would go on to win its second title in three years, while the preseason No. 1 Bulldogs wound up with a disappointing three-loss season.
2009: Brandon Spikes plays dirty (No. 1 Florida 41, Georgia 17)
Heated rivalries are great for the sport and a lot of fun, but it’s possible to take things too far. Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes did just that in 2009. In the third quarter of a comfortable win for the top-ranked Gators, Spikes jumped into a pile of bodies and stuck his fingers through Georgia running back Washaun Ealey’s facemask. Spikes then spent several seconds trying to gouge Ealey’s eyes. And Meyer only suspended him for a half! To make matters more unpleasant for Georgia fans, Tebow broke Herschel Walker’s SEC touchdown record this game.
2010: Grantham gives choke sign (Florida 34, Georgia 31)
The stakes were lower from a national sense with both teams experiencing down years in 2010, but the beauty of a true rivalry is the stakes are always elevated within the two programs. After trailing 21–7 at halftime, Georgia’s Aaron Murray found A.J. Green for a late touchdown pass to tie the game at 31. The Bulldogs got the ball first in OT, but Murray threw an interception on third down. Three plays later, Florida kicker Chas Henry trotted out to kick a game-winning 37-yard field goal. Prior to the kick, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was infamously spotted making a choking gesture at Henry from the sideline. Henry drilled it anyway. Grantham will see the other side of the rivalry for the first time in 2018, as he’s in his first season as DC at Florida.
2012: Jordan Reed fumbles at the goal line (No. 12 Georgia 17, No. 3 Florida 9)
For the first time since 2008, the 2012 cocktail party was a clash of two elite teams. Florida came into the game undefeated and riding the high of two top-10 wins in three weeks. Sitting at No. 2 in the BCS rankings, the Gators controlled their own destiny. The tone was set for a sloppy, defense-dominated day when Florida QB Jeff Driskel was sacked and fumbled on the third play of the game, leading to a Georgia touchdown. Over the next 30 minutes of game time, Florida’s offense turned the ball over four more times (including three straight possessions spanning the end of the first half and start of the second) and managed just three field goals. However, Murray also threw three picks, and Georgia was only up eight late in the game. Driskel led a drive into the Georgia red zone and for a second, it looked like Florida was going to score. Tight end Jordan Reed caught a pass, made one defender miss and darted toward the end zone. He leapt over a defender at the four, but Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones punched the ball out, causing the Bulldogs’ sixth forced turnover of the day and a devastating loss for the Gators. Both teams finished 7–1 in the SEC, but with the tiebreaker Georgia got to go to Atlanta for the conference title game, where it came tantalizingly close to a national championship berth in a four-point loss to Alabama.
2014: Gators fake the field goal (Florida 38, No. 11 Georgia 20)
Will Muschamp was the first Florida coach since the ‘80s who couldn’t beat Georgia. Spurrier dominated, Meyer dominated and even Ron Zook won two of three in between. But Muschamp was 0–3. He had blown a 17–3 lead in 2011, lost the heartbreaker in 2012, and lost another close game in 2013. That was one of the reasons Muschamp’s seat was scalding hot heading into this game. Then he finally did it. Down 7–0 in the second, Muschamp called a fake field goal, perhaps rationalized by the assumption that he was going to be fired anyways. It worked, with former walk-on and part-time grocery bagger Michael McNeely running into the end zone from 21 yards out. That play was one of 60 rushes for 418 yards for the Gators, who attempted a whopping six passes. Muschamp was, in fact, fired anyway a couple of weeks later, but not before making his mark on the rivalry.
2017: Florida talks trash, Georgia dominates (No. 3 Georgia 42, Florida 7)
That 2014 win set off a three-game win streak for Florida, which inflated some confidence despite the odds being against it last season. A couple Gators talked some serious trash in the week leading up to the game, with comments focused on Georgia’s inability to beat them and Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm being overrated. Georgia summarily took the field and went up 42–0 before a late Florida touchdown prevented the shutout. It was the biggest win for Georgia in the series since 1982 and has surely been on the minds of the Gators in the buildup to this Saturday’s huge contest.