Best rivalries built on revenge games

Updated: September 13, 2013, 12:40 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper insists Saturday's SEC West showdown at No. 6 Texas A&M isn't about revenge.

Sure, the Aggies were the only team to defeat the No. 1 Crimson Tide during their national championship season in 2012. Then-redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel passed for 253 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards, helping the Aggies take a 21-0 lead in the first quarter en route to a stunning 29-24 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season for the Crimson Tide.

"Yeah, it's the only game we lost last year," Cooper told reporters this week. "To me, it's not a revenge thing because if we wanted to get revenge, we'd have to play the same team last year with the same team we had last year. It's really not a revenge thing. If you lose a fight with someone, you don't get revenge from fighting someone else."

Yeah, right.

With all due respect to Cooper, college football history shows rematches often mean more.

[+] EnlargeBo Schembechler and Woody Hayes
AP PhotoBo Schembechler, left, and Woody Hayes met for the first year of their "Ten-Year War" in 1969.

College football's most famous revenge game occurred in 1969, a year after Ohio State walloped Michigan 50-14. The Buckeyes scored 29 unanswered points in the second half of that '68 game and unsuccessfully tried a two-point conversion after their final touchdown. When legendary OSU coach Woody Hayes was asked why he went for two, he famously replied, "Because I couldn't go for three."

The next year, after Bo Schembechler was hired as Michigan's coach, Hayes took his No. 1-ranked Buckeyes to play the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Schembechler, a former Hayes assistant, guided the Wolverines to a stunning 24-12 upset on the hands of six interceptions. The upset sparked the famous "Ten-Year War" between the coaches and their teams.

Here's a closer look at some of the best revenge games of the past 25 years:

Auburn 30, Alabama 20 (Dec. 2, 1989)

Alabama and Auburn played the Iron Bowl 54 times from 1894 to 1988, but never once at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium. Crimson Tide coach Ray Perkins in 1986 infamously said moving the game to Auburn "won't happen," as the in-state rivals had at that time played 38 consecutive games at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., which was considered a neutral site, even though the Tide played many of their regular-season games there.

Finally, after the threat of litigation and pressure from state lawmakers, Alabama agreed to play at Auburn in the 1989 regular-season finale. The Crimson Tide were ranked No. 2 and undefeated. The Tigers were 8-2 and ranked No. 11.

Playing in front of an electric home crowd, Auburn's Stacy Danley ran 28 times for 130 yards, leading the Tigers to a 30-20 upset. Auburn coach Pat Dye compared the contest to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and longtime Auburn athletic director David Housel later said it was akin to the Israelites returning to the Promised Land.

Florida 52, Florida State 20 (Jan. 2, 1997)

In the 1996 regular-season finale, the No. 1 Seminoles beat the Gators 24-21 at home to finish with an 11-0 record. FSU's defense battered quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who would win the 1996 Heisman Trophy, sacking him six times and intercepting him three times.

A week later, Texas upset No. 2 Nebraska 37-27 in the Big 12 championship game, giving the Gators a second shot at the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. Florida coach Steve Spurrier went on national TV and complained about FSU's defenders hitting Wuerffel late in the first meeting.

"I didn't like it," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "I thought beating a team you already defeated once was very difficult because the opponent had so much incentive to redeem themselves. And then Spurrier went on TV and complained about my boys hitting Wuerffel so much. He said we had several late hits during our first meeting and were trying to hurt his quarterback."

[+] EnlargeTee Martin
AP Photo/Wade PayneTennessee's Tee Martin did what Peyton Manning could never do -- beat Florida.

It was classic Spurrier. At a pregame dinner in New Orleans, Spurrier pulled Bowden aside and told him he was only making a fuss to try to motivate his team. It worked. Working out of a shotgun offense, Wuerffel passed for 306 yards with three touchdowns in a 52-20 rout in the Sugar Bowl, helping the Gators win their first national championship.

Tennessee 20, Florida 17 (Sept. 19, 1998)

After losing 10 of 12 games to the Gators, UT finally exorcised its Florida demons with a 20-17 overtime victory at Neyland Stadium. Volunteers quarterback Tee Martin did what his celebrated predecessor -- All-American Peyton Manning -- didn't do during his four-year career, beating the No. 2 Gators in his first start against them.

No. 6 Tennessee's defense forced four fumbles and held the Gators to minus-13 rushing yards. After the score was tied at 17 at the end of regulation, UT's Jeff Hall kicked a 41-yard field goal to take a 20-17 lead in overtime. Then Florida's Collins Cooper missed a 32-yard attempt wide left, ending the Vols' five-game losing streak to the Gators.

The Volunteers finished 13-0 and beat Florida State 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl to win their first national championship since 1951.

Texas 41, USC 38 (Jan. 4, 2006)

After Texas quarterback Vince Young lost the 2005 Heisman Trophy to USC tailback Reggie Bush, VY showed the Trojans who the country's best player was in a 41-38 victory in the national championship game at the Rose Bowl.

Young turned in one of the greatest individual performances in history, throwing for 267 yards, running for 200 and accounting for three touchdowns. With 19 seconds to go, Young scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown on fourth-and-5 to lead the Longhorns to their first national title since 1970. The loss ended USC's 34-game winning streak and denied them a chance to win an unprecedented third straight national championship.

LSU 41, Alabama 34 (Nov. 3, 2007)

Alabama coach Nick Saban became public enemy No. 1 in Louisiana after he left LSU for the NFL, only to return to the SEC as Alabama's coach after only a couple of seasons. The Alabama-LSU game became known as the "Saban Bowl," and the Tigers got their first crack at him in a 41-34 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

After falling behind 34-27 in the fourth quarter, LSU scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to stay in the BCS national championship race. Quarterback Matt Flynn fired a 32-yard touchdown to Early Doucet, and then Jacob Hester ran for a one-yard touchdown after Bama fumbled deep in its own territory.

The Tigers gave a game ball to coach Les Miles after the contest.

"It ain't got nothing to do with me," Saban said afterward. "I don't coach LSU anymore. I coach Alabama."

The next year, state troopers escorted Saban into Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., where he guided the Tide to a 27-21 overtime victory over LSU.

Florida 49, Georgia 10 (Nov. 1, 2008)

A year after the brazen Bulldogs danced in the end zone after scoring their first touchdown in a 42-30 upset of the Gators in Jacksonville, Fla., Florida coach Urban Meyer handed UGA coach Mark Richt the worst loss of his career in a 49-10 blowout.

In the 2007 meeting, Richt instructed his team to celebrate wildly after scoring their first touchdown, as he hoped the Bulldogs would play loose after dropping 15 of 17 games to their fiercest rivals. After tailback Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard run with six minutes left in the first quarter, UGA's bench emptied and the Dogs celebrated in the end zone.

"I think it was real disrespectful," UF linebacker Brandon Spikes said afterward. "I just feel like it was a big disrespect. No class. It was fake juice and they kind of fed off it and it got them going."

The next year, Gators quarterback Tim Tebow accounted for five touchdowns and UGA turned over the ball five times in a rout. Meyer called timeout twice in the final 44 seconds to prolong UGA's misery.

USC 45, Stanford 23 (Nov. 15, 2008)

One year after the Cardinal stunned the No. 2 Trojans 24-23, which ended their 35-game winning streak at the Coliseum, USC got its revenge with a 45-23 win at Stanford.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesUSC quarterback Mark Sanchez passed for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the 2008 win over Stanford.

In coach Jim Harbaugh's first season at Stanford, the Cardinal won as a 41-point underdog, stunning the Trojans on quarterback Tavita Pritchard's 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds left.

The next season, USC scored 28 consecutive points in the second half to break open a close game. USC gained 282 rushing yards on 43 carries, and quarterback Mark Sanchez passed for 136 yards with two touchdowns.

"I felt like we owed them something," USC linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "They came into our house and got one from us. I definitely feel like we owed them a favor."

Harbaugh had the last laugh, though, as the Cardinal routed USC 55-21 at the Coliseum in 2009, scoring four touchdowns in the fourth quarter (and going for two once), prompting USC coach Pete Carroll to ask him during the postgame handshake, "What's your deal?"

Iowa 21, Penn State 10 (Sept. 26, 2009)

Iowa ended Penn State's dreams of a perfect season the previous year, when backup kicker Daniel Murray made a 31-yard field goal with one second left in a stunning 24-23 upset in Iowa City.

With revenge on their minds, the Nittany Lions took a 10-0 lead on soggy day in Happy Valley. But then the Hawkeyes scored 21 consecutive points, including a touchdown on Adrian Clayborn's 53-yard return of a blocked punt to start the fourth quarter. Iowa defeated the Nittany Lions for the seventh time in eight meetings.

Alabama 21, LSU 0 (Jan. 9, 2012)

After losing to LSU 9-6 in overtime at home during the regular season, the Crimson Tide left little doubt as to who was the No. 1 team in the country, blasting the Tigers 21-0 in the BCS National Championship at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Alabama's defense overpowered LSU, which had only 92 yards of offense and didn't cross midfield until there were eight minutes left in the game. The Crimson Tide kicked five field goals and then tailback Trent Richardson ran for a 34-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 late in the fourth quarter. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards, leading the Tide to its second national championship in three years.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.