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.
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. 14 — Sept. 20, 1997
Tony George down the sideline
The set-up: It was typical Florida-Tennessee during the time, No. 3 Gators vs. No. 4 Vols, although Florida was ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll. It was also going to be Peyton Manning’s last shot at the Gators. It was also supposed to be his Heisman Trophy year with Danny Wuerffel out of the way. Florida led 7-0 but Tennessee was driving and Manning was looking sharp early despite Florida’s pressure.
The moment: The Vols had the ball at the Florida 24 and Florida defensive coordinator Bobby Stoops called for a corner blitz. Manning dropped back and Eli William, a running back until his senior season, came flying in from the cornerback position. So did defensive tackle Ed Chester, who had beaten his man at the line of scrimmage. They converged on Manning, blasting him just as he let it go, and the quarterback’s floater wobbled over the head of his receiver and into the hands of Florida strong safety Tony George. George headed for the West sideline and eluded a couple of tacklers, then found a lane all the way to the end zone provided by teammates such as Jevon Kearse. The defensive touchdown covered 89 yards and gave Florida a leg up on its efforts to beat Tennessee for a fifth straight time. The moment was not lost on ESPN.com writer Chris Low, who said, “That’s as loud as I’ve ever heard The Swamp.”
The result: The Gators won the game 33-20, but it was Tennessee who would go on to win the East. Manning fell short in his Heisman bid, perhaps because of that loss to Florida. The Gators finished with a stunning upset of FSU and a bowl game win over Penn State to end up 10-2 with a No. 4 ranking.
The quote: “We were in cover three, a soft zone, with the blitz coming from Eli. I couldn’t believe Manning threw that ball. I grabbed it and I was just going to run out of bounds. Instead, there it was, just WOW! Thank God, they gave me a perfect path to the end zone. Looking back, it was probably the greatest moment of my life.” — Tony George.
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.