The Night the Florida Gators Hit a Brick Wall, and Then Were Run Over By It

A Florida Gators’ fan is asked a question–“best college football team ever?” What’s their answer? The 1996 Gators? The 2006 squad? What about the 2008 team? Sadly, it’s not a Florida team. Sadder, the answer is an easy one that brings on instant nausea. They begrudgingly respond with the only logical answer in their mind.

Tommie Frazier - 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers

“The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.”

In 1995, I was a junior in high school. I had already decided my college destination. Even if I wouldn’t apply for a few months, I had known I would attend the University of Florida for years. For many of those years, I’ll admit that I knew very little of the school itself. I didn’t have a family full of alums or even neighbors that openly touted their affiliation with UF. What I did have was an unhealthy obsession with a football team. And in 1995, that obsession reached new, glorious heights.

The Gators would beat Tennessee and that Peyton Manning guy by 25 points. They would travel to LSU and Auburn on consecutive Saturdays and come away with victories against two ranked opponents. Georgia? Ha! 52-17. No. 6 FSU fell to the mighty Gators 35-24. Arkansas stood no chance in the SEC Championship Game and Florida came away with a 34-3 win, securing their spot in the national title game. That meant the 12-0 (yes, an undefeated season prior to the bowl game) Gators were headed to Tempe, Arizona to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl for all the marbles, the whole shebang, all that and a bag of chips, and whatever else you want to use to describe the national championship.

And Florida had stars, plenty of them, but one above all others. Danny Wuerffel was front and center, and rightfully so. His dream of a national championship would be fulfilled just one year later, but it felt within reach following the 1995 season. There he was, with Steve Spurrier behind him, directing one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Nebraska was favored by three, but many believed Wuerffel and the Gators would be too much for the Cornhuskers’ defense. This, despite the fact that Nebraska had faced three top-10 teams during the regular season and had held them to an average of 16.3 points (admittedly skewed by allowing No. 10 Kansas only three points, but impressive nonetheless).

Wuerffel’s counterpart on Nebraska’s offense was Tommie Frazier (a name ever ingrained in the minds of Florida fans, and not in a good way). Frazier threw the ball half as much as Wuerffel did, wasn’t as accurate, and didn’t account for nearly as many touchdowns through the air. Frazier excelled, though, at managing one of the deadliest offenses we’ve ever seen in college football. The ‘Huskers option offense produced six players that would carry that ball at least 50 times. Only one averaged under 6.2 yards per carry. Two others carried the ball 22 times or more and both averaged over 8.4 yards per carry. By comparison, Nebraska didn’t throw the ball much, but they didn’t need to.

Heading into the game, the Gators were scoring 44.5 points per game, an impressive number. They had never scored less than 28 and had gone over 50 four times (and scored 49 once). I liked it. We all liked it. Very much. Then there was Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were averaging 52.4 points per game, had never scored less than 35, and had scored over 50 five times (with two games in which they put up 49). From a pure points-production standpoint, if the Gators were good, the ‘Huskers were better. There are many other factors to take into consideration when looking at these numbers. For instance, Florida’s strength of schedule ranked in at No. 16 that season. But Nebraska’s wasn’t much further down the list at No. 24.

The game began with hope. Florida scored first and, after allowing Nebraska to get on the board, scored again. The Gators were ahead 10-6 at the end of the first quarter and the outlook was bright. While the ‘Huskers had reached the end zone, so had the Gators and many were still wondering if the Nebraska defense could stop Florida. Then would come the second quarter.

Getting punched in the gut hurts. You momentarily lose your breath and struggle to find it as the pain in your stomach builds. This wasn’t that. This was much worse. This was November 26, 1994 (look it up if you must) all over again with the exception that that game ended in a tie at least (we can salvage that much, can’t we?). This would not end that way. Not even close. This was having Ryu come to life and hadouken you into a new zip code, to the tune of 29-0.

I can’t imagine what was said in the Gators’ locker room during halftime, nor do I want to. I heard my share of angry halftime locker room speeches during high school. I’m sure they didn’t register on the same level as this one. Florida was down 35-10 with a half to play. It wasn’t looking good. Even if the Gators could kick start their offense, how would they stop Nebraska? Well, they wouldn’t. While the fireworks wouldn’t continue as rapidly, the grand finale hadn’t come either. It would, with less than one minute remaining in the third quarter.

Florida had scored to cut (ha) the lead to 42-18. Nebraska got the ball back and on second down from their own 25 unleashed one of the most memorable plays in the history of college football (which is also possibly the most painful for Gators’ fans despite it happening when the game was already out of reach). Actually, Frazier unleashed it. There was nothing spectacular about what the other ‘Huskers on the field at the time did. It wasn’t a case of a perfect play or an amazing block that sprung Frazier into the opening. In reality, five Gators had a more than great opportunity to bring Frazier down (your count may be slightly different depending on how you define a true missed tackle). At the time, it felt like closer to 50.

I just rewatched the play for the first time in many, many years. It doesn’t hurt any less. It was the game’s most dangerous offensive weapon taking over on the game’s most important stage. If the game was out of reach before the play, the mercy rule should have been put into effect after Frazier’s run. Frazier rushed for 604 yards during the 1995 regular season. He rushed for 199 against the Gators.

When it all came to an end, Florida had fallen to Nebraska 62-24. What could have been the biggest moment in the program’s history became one of the worst. Attempting to put a cap on what had been a great season, the Gators ran into the best team in the history of college football. Some will say 1971 Oklahoma and others will mention 1972 USC. For this fan and many others out there, there is no debate. Even without suiting up in orange and blue and being on that field, we felt the shear power that Nebraska team had. It was painfully amazing and at the same time amazingly painful.

Exactly one year later, the Gators would accomplish what they hoped they would have on January 2, 1996. There would be three national titles in all following the destruction in Tempe. We like to think that loss propelled the Gators into the 1996 season with a chip on their shoulders. That 38-point championship game loss became a 32-point championship game win. As much as we’d love to have that game back, the result may not have been different. Whatever fuel it gave the Gators to power them to the 1996 championship is all we can take from it. That has been good enough for us for many years and will have to be for many more.

SB Nation Week 10 BlogPoll Top 25

The entire SB Nation BlogPoll in all its glory. The TBG ballot here.

College Football Rankings 2011

Results for Week 10

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 LSU Tigers (76) 25.11 2.61
2 Alabama Crimson Tide (15) 24.41 2.53
3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 22.82 2.27
4 Stanford Cardinal 22.20 2.21
5 Boise St. Broncos 21.32 1.82 Arrow_up 1
6 Oregon Ducks 19.91 1.90 Arrow_up 1
7 Oklahoma Sooners 18.97 1.24 Arrow_up 4
8 Arkansas Razorbacks 17.18 2.02 Arrow_up 1
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 16.68 1.67 Arrow_up 4
10 Clemson Tigers 15.36 2.16 Arrow_down -5
11 South Carolina Gamecocks 13.92 2.81 Arrow_up 4
12 Virginia Tech Hokies 13.06 2.72 Arrow_up 2
13 Houston Cougars 11.84 4.10 Arrow_up 5
14 Michigan Wolverines 11.43 3.21 Arrow_up 3
15 Penn St. Nittany Lions 10.57 3.47 Arrow_up 4
16 Michigan St. Spartans 10.07 2.37 Arrow_down -6
17 Kansas St. Wildcats 9.87 3.75 Arrow_down -9
18 Wisconsin Badgers 7.99 3.18 Arrow_down -6
19 Georgia Bulldogs 6.79 3.07 Arrow_up 4
20 Arizona St. Sun Devils 6.56 2.82 Arrow_up 2
21 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 4.58 3.04 Arrow_up 9
22 USC Trojans 3.87 3.97 Arrow_down -1
23 Cincinnati Bearcats 3.76 3.50 Arrow_up 1
24 Southern Miss. Golden Eagles 2.26 2.81 Arrow_up 2
25 West Virginia Mountaineers 2.24 2.73
Others Receiving Votes: Texas Longhorns | Auburn Tigers | Washington Huskies | Texas A&M Aggies | Ohio St. Buckeyes | TCU Horned Frogs | Notre Dame Fighting Irish | Florida St. Seminoles | Texas Tech Red Raiders | Missouri Tigers | Arkansas St. Red Wolves | Florida Gators | North Carolina Tar Heels | Virginia Cavaliers | Wyoming Cowboys
Updated: Nov 1, 2011 9:51 AM EDT

The Bull Gator Week 4 BlogPoll Top 25

It’s BlogPoll time again. We’re three weeks into the season and definitely starting to get a better idea of which teams may truly have a shot at the national title. It’s still early, but we’ve already seen some stumbles. Feel free to disagree with whatever I have here. That’s why it’s posted.

SB Nation Preseason BlogPoll Top 25

You already saw mine; now here’s the entire poll. The result of many, many blogs from around the college football world come together to form the SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25. Preseason compilation below.

College Football Rankings 2011

Results for Week 1

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide (42) 24.33 2.21
2 Oklahoma Sooners (39) 24.01 1.28
3 Oregon Ducks (7) 22.39 1.44
4 Boise St. Broncos (1) 19.32 4.17
5 Florida St. Seminoles (2) 19.26 2.84
6 LSU Tigers 18.87 3.93
7 Stanford Cardinal (1) 18.33 3.83
8 Wisconsin Badgers 17.20 3.52
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 15.95 3.67
10 Texas A&M Aggies 15.49 3.92
11 Virginia Tech Hokies 14.54 4.34
12 South Carolina Gamecocks 14.22 3.23
13 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 14.04 4.64
14 Arkansas Razorbacks 11.95 4.11
15 TCU Horned Frogs 11.30 4.65
16 Michigan St. Spartans 8.01 4.38
17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 7.97 4.85
18 Georgia Bulldogs 7.41 5.00
19 Ohio St. Buckeyes 6.59 4.50
20 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 5.30 4.43
21 West Virginia Mountaineers 4.64 3.86
22 Missouri Tigers 4.29 3.79
23 Florida Gators 4.15 4.51
24 Auburn Tigers (1) 2.89 4.42
25 USC Trojans 2.62 3.64
Others Receiving Votes: Texas Longhorns | Penn St. Nittany Lions | Arizona St. Sun Devils | Utah Utes | Pittsburgh Panthers | Houston Cougars | Iowa Hawkeyes | Michigan Wolverines | BYU Cougars | Nevada Wolf Pack | South Florida Bulls | Central Florida Knights | Clemson Tigers | Miami Hurricanes | Air Force Falcons | Northern Illinois Huskies | Tennessee Volunteers | Mississippi Rebels | Vanderbilt Commodores | Boston College Eagles | Northwestern Wildcats | Southern Miss. Golden Eagles | Iowa St. Cyclones | SMU Mustangs | Kentucky Wildcats | Texas Tech Red Raiders | Colorado Buffaloes | San Diego St. Aztecs | Akron Zips | Washington Huskies | N.C. State Wolfpack | Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets | Arizona Wildcats | Troy Trojans | Cincinnati Bearcats | Ohio Bobcats | Tulsa Golden Hurricane | North Carolina Tar Heels | ULM Warhawks | Florida Atlantic Owls | Oregon St. Beavers | Hawaii Warriors | Navy Midshipmen | Dixie State Rebels | UAB Blazers | Baylor Bears
Updated: Aug 29, 2011 10:23 AM EDT

The Bull Gator Preseason BlogPoll Top 25

I debated, and debated, and debated some more as to whether I should explain my selections or not. I could give you my reasons behind what you see below or you could just debate it yourself in the comments section (assuming you actually comment). In the end, I decided that no explanation was needed. Not because I think this particular poll is the most correct of any out there, but because 1) it’s the preseason, 2) I wanted to hear your thoughts if you’re willing to give them, 3) it’s the preseason, and 4) no games have been played yet.
Something to keep in mind: voters vote in very different ways, but one of the goals of the BlogPoll initially was to have it based on results. With that in mind, for example, a team that’s 6-0 with two wins over top-10 programs should be ranked higher than a team that’s 6-0 with no remarkable wins even if that second team is more likely to get through the rest of the season undefeated. Basically, it’s not meant to be a predictor as much as a poll based on what has really happened. That’s all good and well in a month or so, but right now that’s a very difficult philosophy to follow because no one has played a single second.
With that, take the preseason poll for what it’s worth and add your thoughts if you feel the need to.

The Conferences Realign On July 1

The conference landscape in college football was blown to pieces a while ago. Nebraska heading to the Big Ten (Or am I supposed to type B1G TEN? Someone is seriously paying a consultant to come up with this crap? Legends and Leaders! WOO!). Colorado and Utah to the Pac-10-Soon-To-Be-Pac-12 (I personally vote they go back to the Big Five name because numbers in conference names mean very little these days anyway.). Boise State leaving the WAC to join the Mountain West. BYU going rogue. We all knew this was happening. On July 1, it all becomes official. And it’s not the end – the Big East welcomes TCU in 2012.
In this piece by SI’s Stewart Mandel, you’ll find that changing conferences isn’t easy, although we won’t shed a tear because it was the school’s desire to do so. Still, there are some interesting logistical issues to consider. Higher travel costs, less players on road trips, not all of your buddies in the hotel with you the night before home games. Those issues are easy to get past when you realize what a school like Nebraska is looking to make as part of the Big Ten, but even their share won’t be on par with their conference mates for a few years until a new deal is worked out. There’s also no school network in the future for the Cornhuskers and fans in Lincoln may not see every game during the 2011 season.
In the end, these headaches mean little to a program like Nebraska which clearly sees this as the right move for its future. Many will agree that most of these programs made the right decision to move even if it’s rough going for a few years as the transition is made. For others, we may scratch our heads. The one thing we all have to realize is that this is far from the end. Expect more movement in the future, and if not, there will at least be talk and plenty of it.

My Most Gut-Wrenching Sports Moment

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13: A Florida Gators fan looks on dejected during a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. The Gamecocks beat the Gators 36-14. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)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.

Morning Reading: Expansion Not as Big as Once Thought

It’s all over.  The dust has settled.  There may still be a ripple or two in the water, but the big name is staying where it is.  Texas will remain in the Big 12.  The program that everyone believed would make the biggest impact when deciding on its new home, didn’t end up leaving.  Not to the Big Ten.  Not to the Pac-10.  Not even to the SEC.  The Longhorns didn’t budge.
Despite losing Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 remained strong by keeping the Longhorns, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M (despite flirtations with the SEC).  What’s of interest now is if the conference sticks with 10 teams or decides to get its way back to 12.
The Big 12 South remains one of the stronger divisions in college football.  The Big 12 North?  Let’s stay polite and just go with “not so much.”  Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri.  That’s it for now.  So what does the Big 12 do?  Go after other teams or ditch the division format?  10 or 12 teams, something has to change.
The Big 12 doesn’t want to drop a championship game so getting back to 12 teams is certainly something to consider.  TCUBYUUtah.  Possibly even Boise State (Mountain West or not).  There are plenty of possibilities that might not make the loss of the Buffaloes and Cornhuskers all that bad.
Then there’s the thought of moving forward with just 10 teams, which the Big 12 seems like it might be okay with.  Less teams – the ones that wanted to stick around – means not as many to split the revenues among.  Due to unequal revenue sharing, the big dogs take home the lion’s share and they may not want to give any up.  While the Big Ten may have just become the Big 12, the Big 12 may have in turn become the Big Ten.
Through all of this the conference did lose two programs.  The 10 that remain keep the Big 12 among the nation’s elite, but the new number isn’t enough.  The Big 12 needs to become the Big 12 again.

The List (6/14/10)

Purely random.  Digest.  Discuss.  Discard.
1. I won’t say “nothing good happens after midnight” because that’s not entirely true.  Occasionally some pretty darn good stuff goes down after the clock strikes twelve.  So I’ll go with “most bad things happen after midnight (I’m looking at you Frankie Hammond).”
2. The Florida baseball team is College World Series bound.  Go Gators!
3. Good showing by the Florida track teams at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.  More on that later.
4. Texas to the Big Ten.  Texas to the Pac-10.  Texas to the SEC.  Texas to stay put.  Anyone else starting to get sick of Texas?
5. Boise StateColoradoNebraska.  On the move.
6. If expansion stops where it is at the moment, that noise you just heard was the ACC and Big East breathing a huge sigh of relief.
7. And that other noise was SEC fans everywhere cheering the fact their conference stayed as is.  Although we were intrigued by and even liked some of the possibilities, deep down most of us aren’t welcome to change.
8. Of course, it might not be over just yet.
9. It’s the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers and we’re headed to game six yet I still find myself disinterested.  The arch of my fan level concerning the NBA over the years is amazing.  When I was 10-14 years old, it was off the charts high.  These days it’s rapidly approaching the level it was at when I was 3-4 and probably didn’t even know professional basketball existed.
10. Despite that, I will watch game six. A few months ago, who would have possibly believed the Celtics would be in the position they are right now?

Morning Reading: Is Notre Dame at Fault for Expansion?

The last time we (and by we and mean me and One Eyed Willy) said something not so kind about Notre Dame, the post appeared on a Fighting Irish message board and Willy got torn apart (if you can call it that) by fans who were none too happy.  This is tame in comparison so we’ll take our chances.
We’re in the middle of an absolutely crazy college football offseason.  Several coaches were dismissed from their posts after being accused of abusing their players; one of the nation’s powers saw it’s coach leave for the NFL, got a new coach they may not have necessarily wanted, and then got punished by the NCAA for cheating a few years back; and now the expansion floodgates have opened.
Nebraska to the Big Ten.  Colorado to the Pac-10.  Rumors galore of what will happen next.
No one really knows whether these shifts are good or bad, but someone may know who to blame.  SI.com writer Michael Rosenberg calls out Notre Dame.  Okay, so he doesn’t really call them out, but he does say a decision they made could be the cause for what is happening now.
That decision was to not join the Big Ten years ago.  If the Irish had said yes to the Big Ten’s invitation to become a member of its conference, we might not be where we are today.  The Big Ten would have its twelfth member – something it wanted all along – and it would be the one most people thought made the most sense.
Now the conference is reaching beyond its borders and into Nebraska to a historical power that creates some interesting and, let’s be honest, somewhat weird rivalries.  The Big Ten has its twelfth team and other conferences are expanding or looking to expand as well.  It’s difficult to say exactly what would have happened if Notre Dame had made the move to the Big Ten, but there’s also a pretty good chance that if they had this offseason would be much quieter.