The University of Florida is located in Gainesville, Florida and was founded in 1853. Their first football game was played in 1906 and since then they’ve had an all-time record of 597 – 364 – 40. The Gators history is a lot like the history of the Chicago Cubs, for many decades they showed a lot of promise, putting several winning teams on the field and in 1928, 1966, 1969, and 1985, the Gators went deep into the season with a shot at the National Championship but came up short. Fortunately the Gators aren’t the Cubs and they finally broke through with their first National Championship in 1996.
Times weren’t always great for the Gators though, from 1933 to 1950 the Gators only had one winning season and their SEC record for that span was 18-57-6, never finish higher than sixth in the conference. Coach Bob Woodruff started to turn around the program, and then Ray Graves turned Florida into a consistent winning team. But it was in 1990 when Steve Spurrier became head coach that the Gators really took off.
When Steve Spurrier returned to the Florida Gators as their head coach he promised wide open football. His very first game resulted in a 50 – 7 victory over Oklahoma State and the Gators went on from there. Florida fans love him for the same reasons that other fans hate him: brashness, confidence, and arrogance. He was often accused of running up the score in games and never really denied it. One game Florida was leading Mississippi State 35 – 0 at halftime and Spurrier kept telling the team to throw the ball, after the game reporters asked him if he thought about just running the ball the second half to have mercy on the inferior Mississippi State team and to run out the clock to keep the shutout. Spurrier’s reply was “Running it out to keep the shutout? No, I didn’t think about that. We felt having 35 points at the half, we only need 17 more to break 50.” In his 12 seasons Spurrier won six SEC Championships, one National Championship, 11 bowl games and his record was 122 – 27 – 1. One stretch from the end of 1992 to the middle of 1997 Steve Spurrier’s Gators went 51 – 6 – 1. The Gators scored 50 points or more on twenty five occasions with Spurrier as coach, they even had back to back 70 point games in 1994 and a 80 point game in 1997.
Florida’s best player, Danny Wuerffel, also came during Spurrier’s tenure. Danny Wuerffel complete 708 out of his 1,170 passes and racked up 10,875 yards for his career. In 1995 he posted a 178.4 QB rating, the highest in NCAA history. Steve Spurrier could be very demanding and overbearing towards his QB and they often withered but Wuerffel was indomitable and succeeded under Steve Spurrier. Wuerffel was also known for his character off the field. After every touchdown pass he threw Wuerffel would clamp his hand together and point to the air, a sign of his religious faith. Wuerffel was also the first player in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy and the same year win Draddy trophy, an award given to the top student-athlete in the nation.
The Gators have had many memorable games over the years, the most memorable being their National Championship game in 1997. The Gators won their first 10 games of the 1996 season including a 35 – 29 shootout between Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning before facing their arch rival Florida State. FSU defeated Florida 21 – 24 but there was much controversy that the FSU players were obviously out to get Wuerffel and told to hit him on every play. This resulted in many late hits that weren’t called by the referees. Fortunately for the Gators they got a 45 – 30 win over Alabama in the SEC Championship and Texas upset #3 Nebraska moving Florida to #3 and getting a rematch in the Sugar Bowl against FSU. This time Florida cruised to a 52 – 20 win over FSU and when #2 Arizona State was knocked off by #4 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Florida won the National Championship.
Other than the 1997 Championship game, the most well known Florida game also included their arch rival FSU but it wasn’t a win but a heartbreaker. In 1994 Florida traveled to Doak Campbell stadium for the annual Florida-Florida State game. With less than 15 minutes left in the game Florida had a 31 – 3 lead. The Seminoles, led by Danny Kannell, then made a miraculous comeback that resulted in a 31 – 31 tie. If a tie is like kissing your sister then tying your arch rival when you were up 31 – 3 is like a full-out make out session.