A Bit of Perspective on the Georgia-Florida Game

In the aftermath of Saturday's setback, Paul Westerdawg spoke for many in Bulldog Nation when he raised the familiar lament, "When will we ever beat these guys?"

The stars do seem aligned against the 'Dawgs in Jacksonville, where critical drops, key turnovers, and freak injuries conspire to deny the Red and Black the victory on a regular basis.

At times like these, it is important to adopt an historical perspective on the rivalry. Georgia-Florida is and always has been a streaky series with lengthy ebbs and flows for both teams.

From 1904 to 1951, the Bulldogs dominated the Gators, posting a 24-5-1 record against the Orange and Blue. From 1952 to 1970, the tables turned and Florida went 13-5-1 against the Red and Black.

Georgia was ascendant once more from 1971 to 1989, going 15-4 against U.F. Most recently, of course, the Big Lizards have put together a 15-2 run against the Classic City Canines from 1990 to 2006.

As I have argued before, the Gators' run during the early years of the Steve Spurrier era in Gainesville was fundamentally different in character from Florida's more recent period of success. The Orange and Blue won seven straight series meetings between 1990 and 1996, by such final margins as 38-7 in 1990, 45-13 in 1991, 52-14 in 1994, 52-17 in 1995, and 47-7 in 1996.

This dreadful period merely mirrored a similar stretch of Gator misery between 1941 and 1948, when the 'Dawgs won seven in a row over Florida by scores like 75-0 in 1942, 38-12 in 1944, 34-0 in 1945, 33-14 in 1946, and 34-6 in 1947. What goes around comes around, folks.

Paul expressed a frustration we all share when he pointed to the recent string of heartbreakers the Bulldogs have endured, as the last five series meetings all have been settled by a touchdown or less and a handful of miscues made the difference between winning and losing.

It helps to remember that it was not so long ago that the Florida faithful experienced an identical sense of frustration and futility. Consider the period from 1972 to 1983:

  • 1972---The Gators take possession at their own 30 yard line with two minutes remaining in the game and the score tied, 7-7. Florida quarterback Chan Gailey fumbles. Georgia recovers and Kim Braswell kicks a 37-yard field goal. The Bulldogs win, 10-7.
  • 1974---A Bulldog fumble allows Florida to take a 10-9 lead in the third quarter. Georgia responds with a 63-yard touchdown drive and holds on to preserve the victory. The Bulldogs win, 17-16.
  • 1975---The Gators hold a 7-3 lead with under four minutes to play. Georgia quarterback Ray Goff hands off to Richard Appleby on an end-around. Appleby stops and hits Gene Washington for an 80-yard touchdown strike. The Bulldogs win, 10-7.
  • 1976---The Gators take a 27-13 halftime lead but fail to pick up the first down on fourth and one at their own 29 yard line. Goff guides the Red and Black on a series of scoring drives, accounting for three rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. The Bulldogs win, 41-27.
  • 1978---The Gators score a late touchdown to pull within two points of Georgia. Florida's two-point conversion attempt fails and the 'Dawgs take over with nearly seven minutes remaining in the game. The Red and Black convert three third downs and one fourth down to run out the clock. The Bulldogs win, 24-22.
  • 1980---With one minute and three seconds showing on the game clock, the undefeated Bulldogs are down, 21-20, and facing third and 11 from their own seven yard line. Buck Belue completes a 93-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott in the most famous play in University of Georgia history. The Bulldogs win, 26-21.
  • 1981---The Gators hold a 21-20 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest. Georgia takes possession at its own five yard line. In a 17-play drive covering 95 yards and nearly eight minutes of clock time, the Red and Black march down the field for a touchdown. The Bulldogs win, 26-21.
  • 1983---The Gators take a 9-3 lead into the locker room. Georgia quarterback John Lastinger leads the 'Dawgs on a 99-yard touchdown drive. The Bulldogs win, 10-9.
Imagine what it must have been like to have been a Florida fan in those days. It must have felt quite a bit like it feels to be a denizen of Bulldog Nation today. I am sure that more than a few of the Gator faithful found themselves wondering after 1983, "When will we ever beat these guys?"

Florida has gone 17-6 against Georgia since that time.

It happens. Winds shift. Curses lift. Trends end. Every dog---or every 'Dawg---has its day.

Georgia's time will come again. The closeness of recent contests in Jacksonville attests to the fact that the Bulldogs' day is coming 'round once more.

That is why I take issue with the part of Paul Westerdawg's posting that makes reference to 15 out of 17 and counting.

There ain't no "and counting" to it. The pendulum is swinging back to the side of all that is right and just. You heard it here first: Matthew Stafford will conclude his University of Georgia career with a 3-1 record against Florida.

It's still the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and, this time next year, we'll all know what it's like to be a Bulldog on Saturday night after beating Florida.

Go 'Dawgs!

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