Daily Archives: October 25, 2007

Blog swappin’ the WLOCP

Ed. note: The guys at Saurian Sagacity, a great Gator blog (and, yes, that is possible) you will find linked from my site, came up with the idea of exchanging posts with bloggers representing each of Florida’s opponents this season. What follows is their thoughts on our rivalry (my contribution to their site can be found here). As I’m heading out of town this morning and won’t have access to my blog until Sunday, this will be the last post here for a couple of days. Feel free to use the comments section to this post as an opportunity to say some things about what the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party means to you.

=====================================================

Well Dawg fans, it is that time again.

Time for the annual bacchanalian festival known the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party (Unless, of course you are the UGA president). And somewhere in the middle of this drunken, debauched celebration of southern youth, a football game will break out.

I entered the University of Florida in 1984 and, naïve fool that I was at the time, did not take advantage of my first two opportunities to visit Jacksonville for the Florida-Georgia contest. Those first two games, watched on television from Gainesville, were pretty consequential. In 1984, after 6 straight losses to the Dawgs, the number 10 Gators stunned number 8 Georgia 27-0. Florida would win its first SEC title that year (later taken from us – oh the humanity!).

In 1985, Florida achieved its first and ever so brief number 1 AP ranking by beating Auburn. The following week, Georgia humbled the Gators at the WLOCP 24-3. It was that moment my Bulldog hate began to foment.

It was also after that game I became curious about what those beer sodden Gator fans were returning from in Jacksonville. I figured nothing went on there that didn’t go on in Gainesville. WRONG, WRONG a thousand times WRONG! I went for the first time in 1986. I’ve been back 21 consecutive times since (22 will be this year).

While we are there, let’s take a moment to recognize the fortunate experience both Gators and Dawgs get to experience in the annual Jacksonville contest. With perhaps the exception of the “Red River Shootout”, no other set of college fans gets to share in such a totally unique football encounter on an annual basis. I have friends from those “other” Florida schools that forsake their own games on that last Saturday in October just to attend the WLOCP.

Enough of the pleasantries. Let’s get to why I “hate” Georgia.

Well, the 1980’s for one. My first experiences with the Bulldogs went like this – (1984-1989) – Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss. Those last three losses happen to coincide with the career of one Emmitt Smith, who never beat Georgia in his career at Florida. After that last Georgia game, an emotional Smith broke down on the sideline, knowing a victory over Georgia was not to be.

Recently, a Dawg friend reminded me of the moment with the following, “We made Emmitt cry.” Well, I suppose you did . Thanks for the memories.

Plus, is there anything more annoying than the now ancient history Belue to Scott play? It was 1980 people! Even though the play happened at a time I was only vaguely aware about college football (8th grade), I feel like I know Larry Munson’s call by heart (which surely warms some of your Bulldog hearts as well). Two events in particular in regard to “The Play” stand out in my mind –

- At the first SEC Championship game held in Atlanta, I was walking around the “SEC Experience” looking at the booths set up by each member school. Most were polished, multimedia presentations about the school and their football history. Except one. It was two young yahoos sitting in an empty booth with only a TV set. A TV set that played the Belue to Scott play over and over again, while the yahoos laughed hysterically. Such was UGA’s SEC Experience display.

- A year or so ago in Jacksonville I was standing in the Hooters at the landing when pre-game coverage showed “The Play”. Some young Georgia fan stood up, held his hat to his chest, and began to …cry. He said aloud (stating the obvious) “It still makes me cry.” I asked him his age. He responded “21” (he may have been overstating for the legal limit). “So, it was about 5 years before you were born?” said I, “How could it “still” make you cry?”

Georgia fans, sheesh.

Of course what makes the contest so great is the mutual “hate”. Georgia fans love to point out the overall record of 45-37-2 (and closing fast), but most are unaware that Florida has the winning record for the past 71 years. Naturally we Gators don’t mind pointing out the more recent 15-2 record, a number that must be unbelievably galling to a program as proud as Georgia’s.

Think of it this way – there are born and bred Georgians who will enter the University next year with no better than a 15-3 lifetime record against the Gators, and in some likelihood a 16-2 record. That would be one win when they were 7 years old, and one when they were 14. Ouch.

Also, not that you need reminding, but who has the largest point total at Sanford Stadium? Not to mention those 52 points were done intentionally late in that 1995 game because “he” could. In fact, my wife asked me just a couple of months ago what that zip lock bag of dried leaves and twigs in the drawer was.

“That’s a fistful of the hedges from Sanford, honey”.

And she had thought, wrongly, that old habits had returned.

There is also the 1992 game when Florida beat number 7 Georgia 26-24, sending us to the SEC title game, and sending Bulldog hopes of a national title down in flames. Or ten years later, when a loss to Zook cost the Dawgs a shot at a national title with a final record of 13-1. (Would you believe LSU could lose to Zook the next year, go 13-1, and win the title? Would you?)

However, in the interest of full disclosure, I will give you one point – Georgia girls are first rate. The men need to get over the mop-top hair (so 80’s that) and the abhorrent red trousers, but a Georgia girl in a little black dress is A-OK with this Gator fan. (And while we are mentioning your women, couldn’t Stafford come up with something better than those pictured with him in his latest internet-photo expose? I mean, he is the starting quarterback.)

I’ve rambled long enough, even though there is vastly more I could say. Overall, I wouldn’t trade our annual contest with our northern neighbors for anything. I’ll be tailgating in my usual spot in the Bull Gator parking lot, easily identifiable by the large stuffed Bulldog I bring wearing Gator gear (he is undefeated by the way, as I forgot to bring him in 2002). If you see him stop by, and I’ll buy you a beer.

Because win or lose, this is better than anything the other schools have to offer.

Mergz

About these ads

12 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football

Eighty percent of success is just showing up.

Maybe he should give the pregame talk to the team this year.

Seriously, if the same team that suited up in Knoxville walks out on the field this Saturday, it will be more appropriate to think about the keys to the car – as in “will somebody unlock this so I can get a beer?” – than the keys to the game. So, for the purpose of having something to post here, I am going to take what I hope is the smallest of leaps of faith and talk about the task at hand.

I do believe that this game will be won or lost based on what the offense is able to do. Georgia is talented on defense, but not on the level of an LSU. The Dawgs need to model their gameplan after what Auburn and Kentucky did (obviously, with varying degrees of success), and that is to use the offense as a means of keeping a very efficient Gator offense off the field as much as possible.

The statistics don’t suggest that turnovers will be a major factor in the game and the intangibles (Superman, 2-15, etc.) clearly favor the Gators, so Georgia has to look for ways to grind this one out. If Florida gets up a quick two or three scores, it’s going to be a near impossible burden for our kids to overcome.

With that being said, here’s what I think has to happen for Georgia to make it a game:

  1. Mike Bobo has to use the pass to set up the run. Believe me, I know that Knowshon is the one consistent playmaker Bobo has at his disposal. The thing is, so does every competent defensive coordinator in the SEC. Chavis (who many UT fans at this point would insist isn’t competent) basically dared Bobo to throw the ball and brought the Vol safeties up to stuff the run and help pressure the Georgia offensive line, a strategy that was a smashing success because Bobo refused to take the gift of a wide open middle of the field that was offered to him. He can’t make the same mistake again. I can’t imagine that Florida’s defensive coordinators, who do seem to have a clue about what they’re doing, are going to call up something drastically different. Florida has the 95th ranked passing defense in the nation and a starting safety that is likely to be out due to injury. Stafford, whatever his accuracy woes on the long ball, can hit the intermediate pass. Use that to keep the safeties honest and the field open for Moreno.
  2. Stafford needs to complete over 60% of his passes. It’s easy to jump on Matt’s case because he has been inconsistent with some of his throws, but it should be pointed out that his game has improved in many areas this year, particularly in not turning the ball over. But Georgia needs more from him in this game. The offense will not be able to mount time consuming drives unless he can keep the chains moving with completions. We’ve seen what he can do with the game on the line this year. He just needs to have the mindset that the Florida game is on the line from the first minute of the first quarter.
  3. Get the ball in the red zone. Georgia has scored 23 out of 24 times it’s been inside the opponent’s 20 this season, with 17 of those being TDs. Of course, as Kit points out, getting there is half the fun.
  4. The defensive line must exert some degree of control on the line of scrimmage. Between Tebow’s mobility and an experienced offensive line, the Gators don’t give up a lot of sacks, but that’s not the biggest challenge anyway. The tackles need to stop the run up the middle that is Florida’s bread and butter play and force the Gator ground game to go laterally. The ends need to play the kind of assignment football that controls the option pitch and the receiver running plays off reverses – something which has not been a consistent part of the Dawg’s defensive repertoire all season. If Georgia can’t control this any better than it did against Vandy in the first half, it will be a long day.
  5. On special teams, prevent Brandon James from making the big play. His return in the second quarter of the Kentucky game changed the complexion of that game for good. Remember that he had a big return in Jacksonville last year that was nullified by a penalty. He needs to be kept in check.

In a year that’s been as unpredictable as Les Miles’ playcalling when the game is on the line, or a Terence Moore column that I actually agree with for the most part, I’m not going to call a score or a result. But I think it’s important to say that this is a game that Georgia needs to win. Not because there’s a monkey it needs to remove from its back (although that wouldn’t hurt), but because this program is trending dangerously close to becoming an afterthought in the SEC East.

Lose this game, and it’s likely that the Dawgs are staring at back to back 4-4 SEC campaigns. That’s not a level this program wants to occupy. A win makes this team relevant in the East race this year – something that I wouldn’t have thought possible three weeks ago – and sends the message that Georgia remains one of the elites in the conference.

And make no mistake, this should be a winnable game. If Auburn can go to the Swamp and win, this Georgia team can go to Jacksonville after a bye week and do the same.

It’s time to show up.

2 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football