I was listening to The Scott Van Pelt show the other day and he and Ryen Russillo were discussing Boise State’s overtime loss to Nevada and Kyle Brotzman’s missed kicks. Van Pelt and Russillo were talking about how the end of that game has to be a Broncos’ fan’s most gut-wrenching sports moment ever. I can agree with that. While it seems unlikely that Auburn or Oregon will lose, there is still a chance either could slip up, but if they do, Boise State will no longer be the team taking their place in the National Championship game. After all the talk about how the Broncos belong in title discussions, they didn’t get through the regular season.
Van Pelt and Russillo went on to talk about their own most gut-wrenching moments. Van Pelt recalled Duke and Jay Williams blasting Maryland and Russillo went on about two of the usual Boston Red Sox moments – Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone.
This of course made me think about my own moment. I, like most people, am a fan of a number of teams across a variety of sports. I could point to one of the Orlando Magic’s NBA Finals appearances, but I’m a passive Magic and NBA fan (which is funny because I used to LOVE everything about the NBA) so while Nick Anderson’s missed free throws will always be remembered, they were far from gut-wrenching. Ray Rice provided many moments that might make any USF fan puke, but it’s hard – when looking at the entire picture of those seasons – to determine how much of an impact they really had. So I turn to the team I’m most passionate about – the Florida Gators.
The moment is easy to pick. It’s actually a series of moments put all together that repeatedly kick me in the stomach even almost 15 years later. But while it can all be combined for a night of pain for Florida and Gators’ fans, one moment stands above the rest. One moment is burned into my mind so much so that I can accurately replay it in my head without needing to watch the highlight.
By now you already know which moment I’m talking about. It happened on January 2, 1996. The #2 Florida Gators faced the #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. These were two dominant teams throughout the course of the season. The Huskers’ closest game was a 13-point victory. The Gators’ was 11. Nebraska was the favorite according to Vegas, but many thought Florida had a good chance to win because of Danny Wuerffel and the Gators’ ridiculously efficient passing game. The result was a 62-24 Huskers’ win. That’s right, 38 points. The Gators took a 10-6 lead into the second quarter. 15 minutes later, Florida was down 35-10 at the half. And it didn’t stop there.
Like I said, the game as a whole is still tough for me to swallow. I was a high school senior at the time only a few months away from starting classes as a freshman at Florida. I had been a Gator my entire life and that was it. Remember, USF wouldn’t even play their first ever game for another 20 months and those of you that have been around this site before know my passion levels for the two aren’t even in the same galaxy. I have an ongoing flirtation with the Bulls. I’m madly in love with the Gators.
This was the National Championship. Add that to the fact that I’m in that minority that actual believes the 1995 Gators’ squad was better than the 1996 team which won the title. That may seem blasphemous given how badly they were defeated by Nebraska, but I’m also someone who believes the 1995 Huskers are the best college football team ever.
On to the moment, like I said, you’ve probably already figured it out. It’s the play that always made me cheer just a little quieter for Rod Frazier even though he was wearing orange and blue. With less than a minute left in the third quarter and Florida just having scored to put the score at 42-18, the moment happened. Tommie Frazier ran for what looked to be about a 10-yard gain. In a flash, it became a 75-yard touchdown run. Frazier broke tackles, avoided tackles, and, oh yeah, broke more tackles. Even more painful was the tackles he was breaking. Right before Frazier broke free, he practically runs over Ben Hanks and drags Lawrence Wright for a few yards. For those of you not well-versed in Florida history, those are two very, VERY good defenders. Two of the better tacklers and hitters the Gators had and probably ever have had. Frazier treated them like they were kids attempting to bring down a Hall of Famer. It was oh so upsetting. In case you missed it, here’s the video…
You’re probably not too happy with me for posting that. I’m not too happy with myself either. The caption for the clip says “one of the greatest Husker QBs ever.” That could be one of the more understated claims you’ll hear. Tommie Frazier is one of the greatest to ever play the sport. Period. When healthy, he was unstoppable. As a fan of college football, watching him in that game was seeing something special, something historic. As a Gator fan, he might as well punched you in the nose and then kicked your dog while you were drowning in your own tears. That run was the definition of gut-wrenching.
I’d imagine many Florida fans have the same moment at the top of their list, but if not or if you aren’t a Gator fan, feel free to add your most gut-wrenching sports moment. We might as well prepare ourselves for the sorrow that is the end of the college football season with some past sports nightmares.