Dog pound: Explaining UF's run
Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 3:23 p.m.
It may be hard for some to fathom now, but there was a time not too long ago when Florida fans were clamoring for the Florida-Georgia rivalry to go to a home-and-home series because the Gators couldn't beat the Bulldogs in Jacksonville. Georgia fans have been expressing a similar frustration over the last decade or so due to UF's recent domination in the rivalry. Dating back to 1990, Florida has owned Georgia, winning 16 games and losing only three. Veteran football beat writer Robbie Andreu offers up five reasons behind UF's remarkable run in the rivalry:
1. The arrival of the HBC
For the younger Florida fans who think UF football history began in 1990, they'll probably be surprised to know that Georgia was 18-5-1 in the rivalry in the 24 seasons before Steve Spurrier returned to his alma mater in '90. The head ball coach changed the culture of the rivalry. At his introductory press conference, Spurrier stated that Georgia was UF's biggest rival and beating the 'Dogs was a top priority. It was personal for Spurrier, whose perfect senior season in 1966 was derailed by a 27-10 loss to the Bulldogs. Spurrier never forgot over the years, and through his 12-year stint as UF's head coach. Spurrier beat Georgia big in his first two seasons, and won seven in a row before the Bulldogs pulled an upset in 1997. Spurrier was 11-1 against the 'Dogs. He tipped the rivalry heavily in Florida's favor, and it has stayed that way.
2. Unkind coaching carousel at UGA
For a big chunk of the time that Florida had a legend (Spurrier) on its sideline, the Bulldogs had two very forgettable guys named Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. Goff, of course, was the Goofer, a great recruiter who seemed to get the least out of his talent. He was 0-6 against Spurrier — and fired after the 1995 season. Donnan managed to upset UF in 1997, his second season. But his five-year stay in Athens wasn't much to talk about — a 40-19 record overall and 1-4 against Florida. Mark Richt has been a considerable upgrade. But he lost two out of three games to Ron Zook, and now he's having his problems with Urban Meyer.
3. Gators hop on a bus, 'Dogs get on a plane
When Spurrier arrived at UF, he pointed out what should have been the obvious. This game is played in Florida, just a 90-minute bus ride from Gainesville, while Jacksonville is a plane trip to another state for the Bulldogs. Spurrier wanted the Gators to feel like they were playing at home, and that's what it has seemed like now for almost 20 years. The crowd may be split right down the middle, but Florida has embraced this as a home game. It's been a Swamp-sized advantage.
4. It's not just a 'Dog thing
The Gators haven't been beating up on just Georgia since 1990. UF has been the most dominant team in the SEC over the past 19-plus years, especially in the Eastern Division. Georgia actually has had it better than division foes Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Gators are a combined 39-0 against those two teams since 1990. South Carolina hasn't fared much better, losing 16 of 17 games to Florida since USC joined the league in 1992. The only division foe that has even been competitive against UF is Tennessee, but even the Vols are 6-14 against Florida. So, it's not just Georgia losing to Florida, it's everybody in the East.
5. Playing those mind games
Once a team gets into another team's head, it's hard to get it out. And clearly, the Gators are in the heads of the Bulldogs and their fans. The longer the domination goes on in the rivalry, the larger the albatross grows, the more the pressure increases. Many UGA fans are now like UF fans were in the 1970s and '80s. They come to Jacksonville every year expecting to lose. And Richt is asked by the boosters every year, "When are you going to beat Florida?" It's an imposing mental hurdle to get over.
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