Good series that turned to rivalry

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In this Oct. 11, 2008, file photo, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow high-fives fans after defeating LSU in The Swamp. No. 22 Florida is honoring their most famous quarterback again. The Gators will induct Tebow into the program's Ring of Honor at halftime of Saturday's game against fifth-ranked LSU. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

The 2008 team that will be honored at halftime of today’s Florida-LSU game is special to current Florida coach Dan Mullen for a number of reasons.

The obvious one is that it won a national title.

The secondary reason is that it was the last team Mullen coached as an assistant.

Back then, things were different and I’m not just talking about the fact there was no Instagram and nobody played Fortnite on their phones.

Because back then, Florida-LSU was a big deal. But it wasn’t the angry rivalry it is today.

In fact, it wasn’t really a rivalry. LSU was Florida’s permanent opponent from the West as much for its box office draw as anything. Oh, the games always seemed to be a big deal. But rivals? Hardly.

Everything changed with Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

As a result, Mullen inherits a game that has a lot more venom than it did when he left Florida.

“I don’t know about the angry part,” Mullen said. “But (the players) know it’s a rivalry and it’s a big game.”

Maybe it has all calmed down. Maybe cooler heads are now prevailing and we’re back to normal now that we’re back on schedule with the home-and-homes. Or maybe there are still hard feelings on both sides.

Maybe it really is a rivalry and will be forever.

Let’s put it this way — have you ever seen two teams celebrate a non-rivalry win the way Florida did two years ago and LSU did last season?

The Gators, of course, clinched a second straight trip to Atlanta with the 2016 win of the delayed game that came down to the final play. LSU celebrated last year so vociferously, players sprinting across the field with mock Gator chomps as if they’d just won the lottery in part because of Jim McElwain’s comments the previous year.

“They got what they deserved,” he said then of LSU’s loss to UF.

There really is no point in bringing up the details of what started the feud that became more intense than the Hatfields and McCoys on Twitter. Your opinion, whether you’re a Tiger or a Gator, hasn’t changed since then.

Just know that it made this rivalry as intense as any of the others Florida has. (I glanced at Wikipedia this week and it does list LSU as one of Florida’s rivalry games, but it also listed Auburn and UF fans haven’t seen Auburn in so long they forgot those Tigers are still in the league).

The rivalry was also intensified by the claims of both sides of being DBU. And after the 2016 game, Teez Tabor twisted the knife by saying, “You can’t give up a 98-yard touchdown and call yourself DBU.”

Then there was last year when Gator fans lost their minds because the LSU band played over the start of a new tradition, the sing-along of “I Won’t Back Down.” Tom Petty died that week. I still haven’t forgiven them.

Anyway, if you missed the last couple of years, know that the game today will have a notch more of intensity than the usual Florida-LSU game. It’s big because it always seems to be big. But now there is a tad more hate than the old days of good, clean respect.

The funny thing is that of all of Florida’s rivals — and the Gators have so many we’ve lost count — none have had as much drama as the Florida-LSU series.

It’s why CBS grabbed it even before the Tigers won over Ole Miss to go to 5-0 and Florida surprised Mississippi State in Starkville. You just know it is going to be must-see TV.

“There have been some exciting, great games that have uniqueness to them,” Mullen said.

Yeah, that’s the best way to put this series. Unique.

I mean, LSU beat Florida twice in six years on fake field goals. There was the Tim Tebow jump pass and the electric 70-yard touchdown to Percy Harvin on the third play in 2008 and the five fourth-down conversions by LSU the year before.

You can go back to the 2004 Marcus Randall to Joseph Addai with 27 seconds to play to win it or the Gators winning in 2003 in a year LSU won it all or Urban Meyer crying after the 2005 loss or if you are really old the game in the monsoon in 1972 that ended in a 3-3 tie or penultimate game Charley Pell coached that also ended in a tie.

I could go on. It has been an amazing series.

“I coached in four of them,” Mullen said. “I always know it’s a big, big game. All of them were pretty big. For our guys, I’ve talked to them all week. This is why you come to Florida, to play in big games like this.”

It’s big. And it’s bad.

Don’t let the hard feelings spoil it. It’s too good a series to let anything ruin Florida-LSU.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Being a bit of an old timer UF Grad and former long term season ticket holder, I never understood why we didn’t retain the Auburn Tigers as our permanent west opponent? They are much closer distance wise and were hated much more. Three weeks ago, we all thought there was no way we could have a BIG game this season, LOL. Now, if we have a BIG impressive win today, we’re relevant again and ranked in top 20 or 15, with much hype prior to UGA. Thats why I love college football, DRAMA, all the time. Pro ball is just too BORING and heck, I don’t know anybody who watches or cares about it anymore.

    • I’m on the same sheet of music, DeWayne — especially with regard to college ball versus the NFL. Always have been, actually. I’ll go you one further tho — move Auburn to the East, where they belong, and Mizzou to the West, where they belong. Wahla! We get them every year again, there is no longer a disturbance in the force, and all is right with the world.

    • Yes DeWayne, I’m an old timer like you and remember when the SEC was a 10 team conference and before even Arkansas came aboard. Uf had three SEC rivalries, UGA, Auburn and yes, LSU. For some reason, UF hardly played Alabama or Tenn back then. For many many years, UF could never beat those three in the same year til it finally happened. Don’t recall the year, do you? I loved the Auburn games, but I still think the league got it right by putting LSU as the permanent west opponent.

      • No, I would have to research. My best/worst memory was the 1983 game at Auburn. My Dad and I had crap seats on row 3 on the north end zone and got a birds eye view of Neil Anderson fumbling the ball on the half yard line on his famous breakaway run that would have tied the game at 14-14. On the next play, Bo Jackson went off right tackle and up the side line for 80 yards! Wayne Peace couldn’t bring us all the way back from those back to back plays, losing 28-21. Still holds the record for the most future 1st round draft picks in a single game (Pat: there is your top five big Gator game from the past). Charlie sit out Anderson the next week against UGA for lying about fumbling the ball…another close loss as, once again, the back to back UGA/Auburn weeks scuttled our SEC dreams. Those two annual weeks always defined our SEC failures, until Galen Halls made things right! I will always believe if Neil Anderson hadn’t fumbled, we would have won both games, winning our first SEC and Charlie Pell would have survived for years, after probation. BUT, Galen Hall took nicely took up the cross.

        Believe me, before Bobby Bowden FSU, Auburn was our most hated rival. Nobody else was close. I still HATE Auburn more than the holes, who are headed back to their rightful pre-Bowden glory status, LOL.

  2. The LSU game I will always remember was in 89. Officials put .01 back on the clock after a completed pass at the end of the game. Gators kicked a fg to win as time expired and we celebrated like crazy in Death Valley. We got back home to Florida the next day and found out Galen Hall had been fired. Ended up leading to the hiring of SOS….so it was a great day for our Gators!!

    • That game was something, Sparky! That was in the day before you could spike the ball to stop the clock, and Kyle Morris had to throw it to the sideline. I was stunned when they put that second back on the clock. I was sure they didn’t have the guts to do it in front of the LSU home crowd. Great win and great that SOS ended up in Gainesville, but I still think Galen Hall got a raw deal.

  3. I was there for the 1972 monsoon. The water cascaded down the stadium steps like water falls. One literally could not get in the aisles for fear of being washed away! We sat behind the LSU bench and gave (then) Heisman hopeful QB Bert Jones a rough time. He got so worked-up that he often faced the crowd and displayed his middle finger, and could not sit down on the bench long enough to rest due to the verbal “commentary”. We dubbed him “Bert the Bird” Jones.! Great times! Nobody left the stadium. In those days, most guys wore yellow long-sleeved shirts and gator ties, and the girls wore sun dresses. We all ended-up looking like hurricane victims. Am I old, or what?

  4. Pat…. this is off topic, but how come there hasn’t been any mention of the Equipment Truck fire. Just saw the story on SEC Nation and that’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’d think this should’ve been mentioned in these pages this week?