The Cocktail Party – Highs and Lows

Saturday afternoon at 3:30, Georgia and Florida get together once again on the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party or the “annual celebration of the repeal of Prohibition.”  On both sides, this game has its share of the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  As a Georgia alum and born-and-bred Bulldog, I decided to put together a personal list of great wins and heart-wrenching losses in this storied rivalry.

Big Wins

1) 1980 – Georgia 26, Florida 21 — Most lists from either side have to start with “Run, Lindsay!” as the top game in the series as a great win or crushing defeat.  Lindsay Scott is just another name in the Georgia history books, and Buck Belue doesn’t have an Atlanta sports talk show without this play.  Everyone forgets how dominant Herschel Walker was in the game.  Without Belue-to-Scott, there is likely no Sugar Bowl and certainly no 1980 national championship.

2) 1997 – Georgia 37, Florida 17 — This game is certainly the greatest Georgia victory in the series I personally witnessed.  My best friend decided to go home after the Georgia-Florida Golf Classic in Jekyll Island on Friday because he was convinced we had no chance to win as a 3 TD underdog.  Without a doubt, this game was the best Jim Donnan coached during his 5 years on the Georgia sideline.  Robert Edwards ran wild, Mike Bobo redeemed himself with a great 2nd half passing, and Hines Ward made plays returning, rushing, passing and receiving.  Chanting “It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog!” that night leaving the stadium was one of the most fun nights I’ve had as a Bulldog fan.

1985- GEORGIA 24-FLORIDA 3: Florida entered the game undefeated, and ranked  No. 1 for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs soon spoiled their debut behind Keith Henderson and Tim Worley (38), who each rushed for more than 100 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown by Worley.

3) 1985 – Georgia 24, Florida 3 — This game was probably the one that personified the 25-year hex Vince Dooley held over the Gators.  Georgia ended Florida’s first ever #1 ranking after 72 hours when Tim Worley and Keith Henderson destroyed the Gators with multiple long runs including Worley’s 89-yard backbreaker.  Since the Gators were on probation again, this game wasn’t on television, and the Georgia faithful could only experience this win as Larry Munson helped us “get the picture.”

4) 2007 – Georgia 42, Florida 30 — As the first game since 1990 where most observers would say Georgia punched Florida in the mouth and dared the Gators to punch back, this game will live on in the history of the rivalry.  Coach Richt’s insistence that the team get an excessive celebration penalty after the first touchdown was his confidence that his team was ready to play to win and not to lose.  Knowshon Moreno’s finest game in a Bulldog uniform and the continued pounding of Tim Tebow were the highlights of this great victory.

5) 1987 – Georgia 23, Florida 10 — While the game in 1987 was nothing spectacular in the context of the rivalry, it was my first game in Jacksonville as a UGA sophomore.  I had heard so much about going to Jacksonville and watched so many Georgia-Florida games on TV.  I was so excited to enter the old Gator Bowl and see the stadium with its 4 corners of red and the hated orange.  I had grown up as a Bulldog fan, but that weekend was when I began to bleed red and black.

Crushing Defeats

1) 2002 – Florida 20, Georgia 13 — In a two-decade span, this game has to be the one that likely sticks out in the most Georgia fans’ minds.  The 13-1 SEC champions do everything except win the game.  Most people believe this game cost Georgia a shot at the national championship.  Terrence Edwards had a chance to have his name right there with Lindsay Scott and his older brother, Robert, but a drop of a sure late game-tying touchdown would be the last mistake that were the nails in the coffin.

2) 1992 – Florida 26, Georgia 24 — This game is probably the most heart-wrenching loss in this series I have experienced.  Florida ends Garrison Hearst’s campaign for the Heisman Trophy and Georgia’s likely appearance in the SEC’s first championship game.  A late desperation 3rd and long conversion allows Florida to run out the clock.  I wasn’t even in the mood to drown my sorrows at the Jacksonville Landing after the game that night.

3) 1993 – Florida 33, Georgia 26 — While gut-wrenching, this game was probably the most gallant Georgia loss I have ever experienced.  Eric Zeier put the team on his shoulders in a monsoon with no running game and gave us a chance to rip out Spurrier’s heart at the end.  A phantom time-out prevented an apparent Georgia touchdown with an opportunity to win the game on a two-point conversion.  I will always remember the rain water running down the steps of the Gator Bowl as we were absolutely soaked.

4) 1995 – Florida 52, Georgia 17 — While not a surprising result given the state of the two programs at the time, Florida’s annihiliation of the Dawgs between the hedges was the low point of the post-Dooley era of Georgia football.  After losing Mike Bobo and Robert Edwards to season-ending injuries earlier in the season, it was apparent that the Ray Goff experiment was going to end after the season.  Darth Visor’s decision to run up the score to be the first visiting team to ever break the 50-point barrier in Sanford Stadium will always be the reason the Bulldog Nation hates him with an intensity that no other player or coach will ever experience.

5) 2008 – Florida 49, Georgia 10 — In my opinion, this game is the basis for today’s “Fire Mark Richt” crowd.  Essentially, the same team that had handled the Gators the previous year came into Jacksonville with the potential of turning the series back into the Bulldogs’ favor.  This game was a face plant of epic proportions where Georgia mistakes took a close game and turned it into a Gator rout.

No Excuses

Georgia-Florida.  Border War.  The Cocktail Party.  It’s one of the best rivalries in college football.  It’s the game by which players on both sides are measured and revered.  It determines champions and also-rans.

I don’t want to hear about the game as a road game for the Dawgs.  Before 1990, the Bulldog Nation considered Jacksonville as “Sanford South” for the south Georgia Bulldog fans.  The largest Bulldog Club outside the borders of the Empire State of the South is in Jacksonville, Florida.  We still have a better and certainly deeper football tradition than the Gators.  As a team and fan base, we need to expect to win on Saturday and change the tenor of the series back in our favor.

Now, Dawgs, go down to Jacksonville and win the game.

I’ll be back later in the week with a preview.  Until then, I would love to read your comments below.

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4 Responses to The Cocktail Party – Highs and Lows

  1. Ginger says:

    We got to see the 2007 win up close and PERSONAL! Hopefully going back this weekend… maybe we can bring some luck to the game.

  2. eethomaswfnc says:

    Ginger, I hope you’re right. If we win, you’re obligated to go every year from now on.

  3. Danny Acord says:

    I think this is a must for Mark Richt. He has the better team and is playing a new coach who is a Georgia slum. I hope I am wrong, but losses to Florida, Auburn and GT will probably end the Mark Richt era.

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