Photo by: AL.com
Aside from the Tim Tebow era (2006-09), when was the last time the Florida Gators held college football in the palm of its hands? Alabama fans come prepared for matchups against Auburn, Tennessee and LSU. These are games that make fans want to sit in the front row with their faces painted, and scream at referees.
Former Gators’ head coach Steve Spurrier formed a competitive matchup between Alabama and Florida in the 1990s, however, it hasn’t been the same since. Coach Spurrier’s philosophy of pass first, run second seemed unstoppable. His quarterbacks, Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer, were very confident, and defensive coordinators were aggravated.
Florida entered the 1999 season with hopes of winning its sixth Southeastern Conference title (1991, 1993-96) and a second national championship since 1996. It started the season 5-0 with a signature win against No.2-ranked Tennessee 23-21. The Gators defeated Alabama 45-30 in the 1996 SEC Championship Game, but it was in for a rude awakening three years later.
A loss to Louisiana Tech was Alabama’s lone blemish in 1999, prior to its regular season meeting against Florida. The Crimson Tide entered Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at 3-1.
Alabama’s quarterback Andrew Zow, running back Shaun Alexander and wide receiver Freddie Millons avenged the Crimson Tide with a stellar performance against the Gators.
Zow completed 28 of 40 passes for 336 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Millons caught 10 passes for 119 yards, and Alexander silenced fans inside “The Swamp” with 106 rushing yards, 94 receiving yards and four touchdowns in Alabama’s 40-39 overtime victory on Oct. 2, 1999.
Not even its fifth SEC East crown could console Florida in its 1999 conference title game rematch with Alabama. The Crimson Tide logged 300 rushing yards, and Alexander put in 97 yards with a touchdown on 30 carries. Alabama pounded the Gators 34-7, ending Florida’s grip on the SEC. Coach Spurrier would win his sixth conference championship in 2000, but was replaced by Ron Zook in 2002. Zook was decent at Florida, but wasn’t on Spurrier’s level.
Alabama learned toughness when it came to playing Florida.
In its eight losses against Spurrier (1990-91, 1993-98), Alabama was able to improve its defense and find ways to generate success offensively. The satisfaction of beating Florida twice in the ‘90s (1992, 1999), proved that Alabama was prepared for everything. Florida tried to rekindle the rivalry by hiring Urban Meyer in 2005. Meyer brought the program two national championships in 2006 and 2008, but Alabama got the better of Florida in 2009 and 2010.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.