The 1990s were a lot of things for Georgia fans. In many late Octobers, it was the definition of insanity - doing the same thing again and expecting different results.
So it was for Georgia fans in the 1990s who lived in the southern part of the state, a place that’s a short drive from the UF campus and predictably ripe with Florida fans.
There’s always a healthy debate among Georgia fans about who the biggest rivals are. My contention has been that Tech is the biggest rival, but the lens you view it through is also framed by where you reside in the Peach State. If you live near Columbus, you want to never lose to Auburn, the same goes for Tennessee if you live up around Rome and Dalton.
And if you lived in south Georgia in the 1990s, an annual trip to Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (deal with the name, Michael Adams), each year felt like a rebel blockade runner going up against the imperial starfleet.
If you started watching Georgia football in 1990, you only saw Georgia beat Florida once in those first eight years. If you have kids that were born eight years ago, you have only seen Georgia lose to the Gators twice, and one of those was the COVID year when nothing was normal.
Georgia even all but won in 1993, but Anthone Lott’s ridiculous “timeout” with the ball in play allowed UF to steal a win. Wins would be few and far between for Georgia in the 1990s, and obviously, Steve Spurrier had a lot to do with that. Few teams beat Florida during that era, and when the nation fixes its eyes on a neutral site game each year, that makes it all the worse for the losing side, especially when its lopsided.
Making it worse? A segment of Georgia fans in places like Waycross, Folkston, Valdosta, Thomasville and Bainbridge would only go to one game a year - the one in Jacksonville. The WLOCP carried more weight for that reason and Dawg fans had to see and deal with Gator fans. For about eight years, our family lived down the street from a house that was not only partisan toward the Gators, but had a family member that played with the HBC at UF.
Obviously, the wounds run deep from the 1990s. Save for 1997, Florida didn’t just beat Georgia, it usually did so with ease. Georgia being in transition on the back end of the Ray Goff era didn’t help salt avoiding the wounds where it could be rubbed in, and the low point came outside of Jacksonville in 1995 when Florida infamously hung ‘half-a-hundred’ on Georgia in Athens with the series moved on-campus while Gator Bowl was renovated toward what it is today (speaking of renovations, did University of Tennessee at Knoxville resod the playing field?).
Mike Bobo just about took Todd Hartley’s hand off on that high five and if you spent as many of your formative years as he did in Thomasville during the Spurrier era you would have done the same.— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) October 28, 2023
But a funny thing happened that day. On the field was Kirby Smart. Much like Spurrier seeing an unbeaten season undone by Georgia’s Bill Stanfill, Kirby Smart never forgot that day against Florida either.
It’s one thing to coach a team you played for and understand the traditions that mean a lot. It’s another to be personally impacted by them. The heart of the matter is that Kirby Smart is from south Georgia. So is Mike Bobo. They saw first-hand in the 1990s what it meant to the Georgia people to lose in Jacksonville....and what it meant in 1997 to win.
As long as Kirby Smart is the head coach in Athens, Georgia will win this game on a regular basis. The reason for that is that Kirby Smart has some South Georgia Dawg Fan in him, and for the Dawgs in South Georgia, this game in Jacksonville is and will always be something special.