There’s an old adage the Georgia faithful has become familiar with. That is when asked who you cheer for on Saturdays, Dawg fans respond, “Georgia and whoever is playing Florida.” Growing up in St. Simons Island, Georgia with two parents who attended the University of Georgia, this is embedded in my blood.
There are plenty of reasons to have utter disdain for the University of Florida. Two of the most unlikeable head coaches to ever grace the sideline Steve Spurrier and Urban Myer are responsible for the majority of their school’s success. UF and Gainesville, Florida is filled with unpleasant individuals walking around in cutoff t-shirts and jorts. It’s difficult to pay them a compliment.
Regardless, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is an historic rivalry filled with pageantry and tradition unrivaled across college athletics. When walking into EverBank Stadium, the visual of half the stadium in red and black and the other half in orange and blue is a must see if you call yourself a college football fan.
My first memories from the game come from Georgia’s monumental 2007 victory against the Gators. Tim Tebow and the reigning national champion Gators came into Jacksonville as heavy favorites, having plenty of recent success against the Bulldogs. However, Knowshon Moreno posted a career-high on the ground rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Matthew Stafford threw for three touchdowns as well, and the Georgia defense sacked Tebow six times, holding him to the lowest rushing total of the season (-15 yards).
That game represented everything a rivalry should. The Bulldogs and Gators clearly despised each other, and it was apparent on the field. Mark Richt fired up his team by allowing the Bulldogs to run out onto the field and celebrate when Knowshon Moreno punched in the first score of the game, now know as the famous “Gator Stomp” celebration. It was a hard-nosed physical football game between two powerhouse teams and fanbases that have nothing but disdain for the other.
As we transition into a period of college football where conference realignment is eliminating some of college football’s most prevalent rivalries, it only makes you appreciate more what the Georgia-Florida game means, and yes, it is Georgia-Florida, never under any circumstances is it said the other way around.
This week, I’ll be heading home once more to bear witness to St. Simons annual festivities as UGA students make the great migration down to the Golden Isles before heading to Jacksonville to cheer on the Dawgs. Before then, however, I will be taking up one of my favorite hobbies before the game which is watching the historic beatdowns Georgia has given the team from Gainesville.
I’ll listen to Larry Munson give one of the greatest calls of all time as Lindsay Scott scampered for a 92-yard touchdown in 1980, allowing the Dawgs to remain perfect on the season and emerge victorious as the Bulldogs beat the Gators 26-21 on their way to their second national championship. I’ll watch Mohamed Massaquoi score an 84-yard touchdown in 2007 and run past the Florida student section mocking the Gator chomp. Then, I’ll watch Todd Gurley do the same thing in 2012, followed by Malcolm Mitchell 45-yard game winning touchdown. There are many beautiful memories from the heated rivalry, and they have shaped the course of Georgia football history.
As we transition to the current phase of Georgia football under the tenure of Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have had much success against the Gators, going five-and-two since his arrival back in Athens. There is no denying that Coach Smart understands the magnitude of this game, and having played in this game only amplifies his desire to lead the Dawgs to victory in Jacksonville.