25 Best Moments in The Swamp: No. 17 — Elam’s theft vs. Tigers

Florida safety Matt Elam, right, forces LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to fumble after a long reception during the third quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct. 6, 2012. Florida recovered the fumble and defeated LSU 14-6. [Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun]

It was June of 1992 when Steve Spurrier, fresh off Florida’s first official SEC title, called The Sun columnist Mike Bianchi with a new name for the stadium that would eventually bear his name.

The Swamp. 

In the years that followed, there have been some unbelievable games and players. Sun writers Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu came up with their rankings of the 25 best moments since 1992 when Spurrier gave it that moniker. 

No. 17 — Oct. 6, 2012

Elam’s theft

The set-up: The Gators got off to a solid start in Will Muschamp’s first season, opening the year with consecutive wins over Bowling Green, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky. They had a chance to make it a great start with No. 4 LSU coming to The Swamp. And they did.

The moment: In a classic SEC defensive struggle, the Gators came back from a 6-0 halftime deficit to take a 7-6 lead midway through the third quarter on a touchdown run by Mike Gillislee. But the Tigers had a quick answer to that score with a play that appeared to give LSU a chance to retake the lead.

The result: In a line of scrimmage game, it was a play deep downfield by the UF secondary that may have been the difference in the game. After Gillislee’s TD, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger found wide receiver Odell Beckham open behind the UF secondary for what appeared to be a 56-yard gain down to the UF 23. But safety Matt Elam stripped the ball before Beckham hit the ground and safety De’Ante Saunders recovered. The play was reviewed and ruled a fumble. The Gators then went on an 11-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard TD run by Gillislee that put the Gators up 14-6 early in the fourth quarter. The UF defense made the score stand, shutting out the Tigers the rest of the way.

The quote:Elam wore a lot of pink that day to honor his sister and raise breast cancer awareness. He should have worn pink every game. Elam played with a ferocious energy in a classic SEC defensive slugfest. He dropped LSU running back Spencer Ware on LSU’s first drive that basically set the defensive tone for the Gators. His play on Beckham goes down as one of the most memorable of the defensive-oriented Will Muschamp era at Florida – and of course protected the Gators’ 1-point lead at the time. It’s been rare over the years to hear The Swamp roar that loud in a defensive battle.” — Scott Carter, Floridagators.com

Editor’s note: You have one Swamp game moment that comes to mind? Tell us what it is.Maybe it’s already on our Top 25 list. We’ll update readers on top moments from fans as the countdown proceeds.


  1. Was at that game in a friends Sky box. Don’t like it up there. To removed from the action. But what a defensive game. If Muschamp would have developed an offense to go along with the defense they’d have been a real team. But that is why he’s a better dc. But to Elam’s play that day it was stellar.

    • Yep 65…I think that season, his philosophy worked almost perfectly…ball control, and wearing teams down so by the 4th you can ice the game…minus the UGA game due to turnovers. We ran up and down the field on those boys…that’s one game that still gets me. Then the Louisville game happened.. 🙁

      Then Champ got in his own way…

  2. When you sit down to come up with 25 big plays in the Swamp, you realize 2 things:
    1 – a lot of memorable/important plays came away from home, and
    2 – a lot of the biggest plays were on defense