<
>

From Spurrier to Kiffin, Florida-Tennessee has had it all

It wasn't too long ago that Florida vs. Tennessee was as big as it got in college football.

For 18 consecutive years, from 1990-2007, the Gators and Vols were both nationally ranked when they met, and 11 of those were top-10 matchups. On Saturday, neither team will be ranked for the second year in a row.

And even though this will be the first time since 1955 they've met in the Swamp with both teams being unranked, try telling either side that this isn't a big game.

Here's a look back at the 10 most memorable moments in the series, which has been played every year since 1990:

Faxgate
Before Spygate, there was Faxgate. Jack Sells, a former Tennessee assistant who was fired in 1991 for what Tennessee said was NCAA recruiting violations, was caught faxing part of Tennessee's playbook to then-Florida defensive coordinator Ron Zook the week of the game. Sells and Zook were friends from when Zook coached at Tennessee in the 1980s. Sells sent the diagrams from a Kinko's near campus, and one of the employees recognized him and alerted the Tennessee football office. Zook initially denied receiving anything, and both sides have downplayed it. In fact, some at Florida have claimed Tennessee also had a copy of its playbook. The Gators wound up winning 35-18, and Sells wound up suing Kinko's for violating his privacy and destroying his career. In that suit, he said he was harassed by Tennessee fans and was even punched in the mouth by a fan in a Chattanooga bar. After the suit was settled years later, Steve Spurrier joked, "I guess Jack's got him a brand-new house somewhere."

How do you spell Citrus?
Spurrier might be a master play-caller, but he's also a master irritator, and the Head Ball Coach saved some of his best barbs for Tennessee when the Gators were dominating the series in the 1990s. The frustrating part for the Vols was that they had top-10 teams in a lot of those years, but would lose to the Gators and be relegated to the Citrus Bowl. Hence Spurrier referring to Orlando as the "winter home of the Vols," joking that you "couldn't spell Citrus without UT," and even taking a dig at Peyton Manning and saying the real reason he came back for his senior season was because he "wanted to be a three-time MVP of the Citrus Bowl." It didn't matter to Tennessee fans that Spurrier's zingers all came while making the rounds at Gator booster club engagements. The Head Ball Coach was still Public Enemy No. 1 on Rocky Top.

Kiffin stirs it up
The Eddie Haskell of SEC football coaches during his turbulent 14-month stay at Tennessee, Lane Kiffin especially enjoyed trying to get under the skin of Urban Meyer. The tipping point came when Kiffin boasted at a recruiting celebration that the Vols were able to steal Nu'Keese Richardson away from Florida even though, in Kiffin's words, "Urban cheated." Kiffin was referring to Meyer calling Richardson on his cell phone while Richardson was visiting Tennessee. Kiffin obviously wasn't up to speed on his NCAA rulebook, because it wasn't a violation. Kiffin was reprimanded by the SEC and forced to apologize. Kiffin's Vols were a 30-point underdog to the No. 1 Gators that September in the Swamp, and everybody was expecting a massacre. But Tennessee managed to hang around and make it respectable in a 23-13 loss.

Tebow's coming-out party
The legend of Tim Tebow was, in many ways, born against Tennessee in 2006. Only a freshman playing in his third college game, Tebow was a nightmare for the Vols on third and fourth downs. He subbed in for senior quarterback Chris Leak on short-yardage conversion downs and bulled his way to one first down after another, including a critical fourth-and-1 play late in the game. It was a glimpse of things to come for No. 15 in Florida blue. The Gators edged the Vols 21-20 that night in Neyland Stadium and went on to win the first of two national championships under Meyer.

The catch?
Florida fans insist he had possession. Tennessee fans will tell you just as passionately he never had it. Ultimately, the officials ruled Jabar Gaffney held on long enough for a disputed 3-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds to play, capping a 91-yard drive and sending the Gators to a 27-23 win over the Vols in 2000. It was the first time in 23 games Tennessee had lost at home, and the coaches and players from that team still say they were robbed. There was no review process in those days, and Gaffney had Jesse Palmer's bullet for an instant. But the ball was knocked loose by Tennessee cornerback Willie Miles. Al Matthews, the line judge, immediately ruled it a catch and gave the touchdown signal a couple of times for emphasis. Matthews, who played football at Vanderbilt, conferred briefly with referee Al Ford, and the touchdown stood, sending Neyland Stadium into a chorus of boos.

Spurrier's farewell to the Swamp
The final Florida game Spurrier coached in the Swamp remains one of his most nauseating losses. The 2001 game was moved to Dec. 1 because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was an epic showdown. Florida was No. 2 and Tennessee No. 5, but the Vols were an 18-point underdog. They trailed 23-21 entering the fourth quarter, but rode Travis Stephens' career day to win a 34-32 thriller. Stephens romped for 226 yards on 19 carries, as the Vols won for the first time in the Swamp in 30 years. The Gators had a chance to tie it with 1:10 left after scoring a late touchdown, but Rex Grossman's 2-point conversion pass was incomplete. To this day, Spurrier says it's his most talented team that never won a championship.

Pandemonium reigns
The frustration of losing to Florida had reached its boiling point in 1998 for Tennessee. The Vols had lost five in a row in the series, and making matters worse, had been a top-10 team in four of those contests. But with linebacker Al Wilson playing like a man possessed and forcing a school-record three fumbles, Tennessee ended its drought against Florida with a dramatic 20-17 win in overtime. The Gators had a chance to send it into a second overtime, but Cooper Collins' 32-yard field goal was no good. Within seconds, Tennessee fans flooded the field at Neyland Stadium and ripped down the goalposts. Legendary Voice of the Vols John Ward described it simply as, "Pandemonium reigns." A little more than three months later, Tennessee completed a 13-0 season and won its first national championship in 47 years.

Wright's hit, Wuerffel's magic
Peyton Manning, then a sophomore, carved apart the Florida secondary in the first half of the 1995 game, and the Vols jumped out to a 16-point lead. But then Lawrence Wright delivered the hit heard around the SEC. The Gators' safety laid out Tennessee receiver Joey Kent, and the hit was so jarring that Kent bit through his tongue. The entire complexion of the game changed on that play, even though the Vols returned a fumble for a touchdown on the following possession. The Swamp was alive again, and so was a Florida defense, really, for the rest of the season. With QB Danny Wuerffel leading the way with six touchdown passes, the Gators and Wuerffel poured it on with 48 unanswered points, and with rain coming down in buckets in the second half, deluged the Vols in a 62-37 rout.

Peyton's pick
Rarely has the Swamp been louder than it was that steamy September day in 1997 when Tony George intercepted Manning's first-quarter pass and raced 89 yards for a touchdown. The Gators' lead swelled to two touchdowns, and Manning and the Vols would never recover in a 33-20 loss. Even though Tennessee would go on to win the SEC championship that season, the loss meant Manning would end his career 0-3 as the starter against the Gators. It's also a loss, fairly or unfairly, that probably cost Manning the Heisman Trophy.

Wilhoit's redemption
Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit had never missed an extra point in his career, but he did in the final minutes of the 2004 game after Jayson Swain scored on a 13-yard touchdown reception to seemingly tie the game. Wilhoit's teammates assured him on the sideline that he would still get a chance to win it, and the Vols' defense was able to get a stop, one that was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Florida's Dallas Baker, who got into a shoving match with Tennessee's Jonathan Wade after the whistle. Erik Ainge and the Vols took over with excellent field position and quickly moved to the Florida 33. Sure enough, Wilhoit got his chance at redemption and calmly drilled the game-winner from 50 yards with six seconds remaining to give Tennessee a 31-30 victory, which remains the last time the Vols have won in the series.