Remembering the Fog Bowl

12/24/2011 - Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It has been a while since the University of Florida has played in the Gator Bowl.

It was 1992, but it's understandable if your memory of the Gators' 27-10 victory over N.C. State is a little hazy. Not too many people saw the game.

There were 71,223 people in the stadium and the game was televised nationally on TBS, but they didn't see much after the middle of the second quarter. Heavy fog rolled into the stadium and quickly made watching the game from the stands or on television impossible.

Gators in the Gator Bowl

Florida hasn't played in the Gator Bowl since 1992 -- the memorable Fog Bowl -- but this year's game will be the school's ninth appearance. That's more than any other bowl game in program history. UF is 6-2 in its previous eight games.

1953: Florida 14, Tulsa 13

UF's first bowl game turned into the Rick Casares show. He ran for 86 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, caught one pass for 7 yards and kicked two extra points. The Gators won despite committing five turnovers.

1958: Ole Miss 7, Florida 3

The Gators turned the ball over eight times (five interceptions, three fumbles). The teams combined for 17 punts and just 85 yards rushing.

1960: Florida 13, Baylor 12

Florida scored all of its points in the second quarter (including Larry Travis' fumble recovery in the end zone) and survived a Baylor rally in the fourth quarter. The Bears scored two touchdowns in the final period, but missed the PAT after the first and missed the two-point conversion after the second. That came with 1:01 to play.

1962: Florida 17, Penn State 7

Florida's defense held Penn State to just 139 yards, and Tommy Shannon threw for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The Gators ran for 162 yards, including 26 by Shannon.

1969: Florida 14, Tennessee 13

Tennessee out-gained Florida by more than 100 yards (387 to 251), but John Reaves' 9-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez in the third quarter proved to be the difference. The Gators also got a defensive touchdown on James Kelley's 8-yard fumble return in the first quarter.

1975: Maryland 13, Florida 0

The Terps ran for 209 yards, including 127 by MVP Steve Atkins. UF quarterbacks Don Gaffney and James Fisher combined to throw three interceptions.

1983: Florida 14, Iowa 6

The Gators scored on offense and defense to beat the Hawkeyes. Neal Anderson scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter, and linebacker Doug Drew recovered a fumble in the end zone. UF's defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions.

1992: Florida 27, N.C. State 10

Errict Rhett accounted for 234 yards of total offense, and Shane Matthews threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to give the Gators the victory in a game played in a heavy fog. Matthews threw for 247 yards, while Rhett ran for 192 on 39 carries.

-- Michael DiRocco

"It looked like snow," said Larry Kennedy, a former UF safety who played in the game. "You really couldn't see."

It wasn't too bad on the field, though. The players standing on the sideline couldn't see the opposing sideline, but they were able to see into the middle of the field. The players on the field could see the coaches signaling in calls and adjustments, and they were able to see well enough to still throw the ball.

Florida took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter on Judd Davis' 34-yard field goal and quarterback Shane Matthews' 1-yard run. The fog started wisping over the top of the old Gator Bowl stadium during the second quarter. By the time the teams came out for the second half, a London fog had enveloped the entire area.

The players joked about what was happening, but Kennedy had an eerie chill he couldn't shake.

"That was the craziest-feeling game I've ever been a part of," he said. "You're playing a bowl game and the fog sets in and it's odd. It's odd out there playing a game in the fog. You start thinking about the movie 'The Fog' and 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' You start thinking about little crazy stuff coming up in your mind."

Nobody encountered any ghosts or alien pods, but N.C. State ran into something much worse that night: UF running back Errict Rhett.

The junior from Hollywood, Fla., ran for 192 yards on 39 carries and caught seven passes for 42 yards. At times the mist was so thick that once he broke through the line of scrimmage he just picked a direction and dealt with any defender who happened to materialize in his way.

"I was just running with so much heart and tenacity to where if they did come upon me [he'd run them over]," Rhett said. "The same thing that was happening for me would happen to them, too. I would pop up in their face.

"You were just out there running. You couldn't see any defenders after five yards."

That was still better than being in the television or radio booths. By the second half, it was impossible to see anything on the field, so the TV and radio announcers had to rely on ground-level cameras.

And do a little housekeeping as well.

"It was hard to call that game," said Mick Hubert, the Gators' radio play-by-play announcer for the past 23 years. "That was back in the old press box where they had permanent glass windows. That's very abnormal. Most radio/TV booths don't have fixed, permanent glass windows. We were constantly trying to wipe the fog and the steam off of there to see. That was a problem we had right here let alone the fog out there.

"It was hard to see, so we relied a lot on the TV monitor, but they had troubles, too, so they had to shoot a lot of stuff on field level, low level."

Hubert said the field-level cameras gave him a pretty good view -- most of the time.

"I'm sure there was some educated guesses that we might have missed a little here and there, but I don't recall having butchered it up," he said. "But it was tough.

"I think we got most of it right."

He still had a better view than most fans. Most of the crowd stuck around, however, although the reason was not always to try and catch a glimpse of the action now and then.

"My family couldn't see anything," Kennedy said. "Nobody wanted to leave because of the weather itself. It was safer to be sitting in the stands than saying, 'I can't see,' and go try to drive somewhere."

Rhett's family couldn't see, either, which is a shame because that was one of the best games of his career. His own recollection of his play is a little, um, foggy, too, and there's nothing he can really use to jog his memory other than a stat sheet.

"The game went by so fast," Rhett said. "I didn't realize I had that many yards. I knew Shane threw me quite a few balls.

"I later saw the game on television and I couldn't see the game at all. The replays of the game film that we had, the coaches had, completely nothing."

That he remembers clearly.

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.