Open season

With the 2012 season about to kick off, here are some of UF's most memorable openers

Updated: August 25, 2012, 4:58 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With Florida's season opener against Bowling Green less than a week away, GatorNation thought it would be fun to look back on some of the most memorable season openers in school history.

Sept. 13, 1980
Florida 41, California 13

It's not the fact that California QB Rich Campbell set a then-NCAA single-game record with his pass-completion percentage of 81.1 (43-of-53) that makes this game, which was played in Tampa (Fla.) Stadium, memorable. It's the fact that the Gators won the game. It snapped a 13-game winless streak that dated back to Nov. 18, 1978. UF beat Kentucky 18-16 that day, lost the final two games of the '78 season, and followed that with the most miserable season in school history in 1979: 0-10-1. It also was the first victory for coach Charley Pell, who took over for Doug Dickey after the '78 season.

Sept. 7, 1985
Florida 35, Miami 23

This is another game more noted for the circumstances than what happened on the field, although that was pretty memorable, too. The fifth-ranked Gators scored 15 points in the fourth quarter behind a pair of Kerwin Bell touchdown passes and rallied from a 21-20 deficit. Bell ended up completing 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards and four touchdown passes (two to Ricky Nattiel). UF's defense forced four turnovers, including intercepting two passes from Vinny Testaverde, who was making his first collegiate start. Miami got its final points when UF punter Ray Criswell ran out of the back of the end zone with 36 seconds to play. This game ended up being pretty significant for the Hurricanes because it was the last time they would lose at the Orange Bowl until Sept. 24, 1994, against Washington. That streak of 58 consecutive home victories is still an NCAA record. It's a streak that lasted more than nine years.

Shane Matthews
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesShane Matthews threw for 332 yards in his debut as the Gators' new starting quarterback in 1990.
Sept. 8, 1990
Florida 50, Oklahoma State 7

This game served notice to the rest of the Southeastern Conference that things were going to be much different from then on. It was Steve Spurrier's first game as the Gators' head coach, and he brought his Fun 'N Gun offense to the stodgy, ball-control, plodding SEC. People were convinced it wouldn't work. They were convinced Spurrier was crazy. By the time this game ended at Florida Field, Gators fans were believers and pretty soon so was the rest of the SEC. The Gators rolled up 567 yards of total offense, quarterback Shane Matthews completed 20-of-29 passes for 332 yards, and 10 receivers caught passes. Spurrier went on to win six SEC titles and the 1996 national title.

Sept. 3, 1994
Florida 70, New Mexico State 21

The Gators opened the 1994 as the nation's top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll. It was only the second time in school history UF held the No. 1 ranking, and this time the Gators would hold onto it for a lot longer. Terry Dean threw an SEC- and NCAA-record seven touchdown passes in the first half and the Gators racked up 618 yards of offense at Florida Field. UF remained the nation's top team until losing at home to Auburn 36-33 on Oct. 15.

Sept. 1, 2007
Florida 49, Western Kentucky 3

The biggest question surrounding the opening of the 2007 season was whether Tim Tebow could throw the football. His role in 2006 was mainly as a short-yardage runner, although he did complete 22-of-31 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. But could he get the job done on a weekly basis as a passer? The answer was an emphatic yes. Tebow completed 13-of-17 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns in the rout of the Hilltoppers at Florida Field. He also ran for a touchdown. It turned out to be the start of what would become one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NCAA history, and Tebow would go on to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter