Picking back up

After an unusual lull, the rivalry between UF and UGA is back to being great

Updated: October 26, 2012, 5:32 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The border battle between Florida and Georgia is a rowdy affair again.

[+] EnlargeGeorgia touchdown
Palm Beach Post/ZUMA Press/Icon SMIThe Gator Stomp in Georgia's 2007 victory over Florida woke up a rivalry that had become stale after a dominating 15-2 stretch by Florida.
Years of lopsided and relatively uneventful games in the 1990s and early 2000s had made the Florida-Georgia rivalry, well, boring. But things have heated up again over the past five years, and the annual game between the Southeastern Conference schools in Jacksonville, Fla., is as intense as ever.

"As a competitor, you go line up between the lines and you go play, and certainly in some games there will be a little more adrenaline flowing," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "And there will be in this one."

Thank heavens, because rivalries need that. There has to be heartbreak and angst, elation and dejection, anger and depression. Otherwise, it's just another game.

Florida-Georgia is not just another game.

The series is filled with big plays, devastating losses, season-saving victories and watershed moments fans remember no matter which color they wear. Run Lindsay Run. Fourth-and-Dumb. A fifth-down field goal. Herschel Walker. Steve Spurrier. Anthone Lott's timeout.

All those things -- plus many more -- are what made the series such a great rivalry.

But that largely had been missing since UF and Spurrier seized control in 1990. The Gators under Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer won 15 of the next 17 meetings. Things had gotten dull -- until 2007.

That's when Georgia's players rushed the end zone to celebrate RB Knowshon Moreno's 1-yard touchdown run nine minutes into the game. It became known as the Gator Stomp and sparked the Bulldogs to a 42-30 victory.

It also became a source of motivation for the Gators, which stewed about it for an entire year. The proof: Meyer using his two remaining timeouts in the game's final minute with a 39-point lead.

"Enjoy the moment, enjoy the game," quarterback Tim Tebow said after the 49-10 victory. "We're still playing the game. We didn't do anything wrong. We were just playing the game."

The 2009 game featured UF LB Brandon Spikes allegedly trying to gouge the eyes of Georgia RB Washaun Ealey at the bottom of a pile during the Gators' 41-17 victory. Spikes' actions supposedly were in retaliation for things that happened earlier in the game, when he had his helmet ripped off by a Georgia player.

We've seen Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham give the choke sign to Florida K Chas Henry moments before Henry kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime in 2010. There were three fourth-down touchdown passes -- two by Georgia's Aaron Murray -- in last season's game, which the Bulldogs won by rallying from a 17-3 deficit.

Florida DE Dominique Easley still seethes about the fourth quarter, in which the Bulldogs held the ball for 10:19, including the final 5:32. He watches film of that game -- and other games Florida lost last season -- several times a week and gets angrier every time.

"We got our butts kicked, and it still hurts," Easley said. "It's like you're going to watch a video clip of you getting punched in your face over and over again. You're going to get mad every time you watch it."

Well, it's not like Georgia's players aren't upset about the things that happened. Like 2010, when UF's Will Hill picked off Murray in overtime to set up Henry's game-winning kick.

"It does something to us too," UGA senior CB Sanders Commings said. "This game is why we come to Georgia, to play in a top-10 BCS game for the SEC East championship. All the other stuff, the crazy things that happened in the past, that excites us too. I think this is the game that everybody on the team has circled on their schedule, so I think everyone wants to come out and win this game."

Because of all the things that have happened over the past five years -- plus the fact that this is a critical game in the SEC's East Division race (UF wins the division with a victory) -- neither coach is wasting a lot of time on inspirational messages this week.

"It's just one of those weeks as a coach where you don't sit there and say, 'Gee, I wonder how I can motivate these guys this week?'" Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I just think they're motivated to play this game, so I don't think that's an issue."

Not when there's a party to crash.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter