Gator Nation News

8 Other Weird Gator Football Season Interruptions

Think the LSU and Mizzou game postponements are strange? These other examples will get you schooled in 2 minutes.

By Pat Dooley (BSJ ’76) For UF Advancement Published November 4, 2020
As a player in 1964, Steve Spurrier (BSPE ’81) led the Gators to a 20-6 win against LSU. It was his first of nine straight wins against the Tigers over the course of his playing and coaching careers. The Tigers’ win in 1997 broke his winning streak.

Anytime his name pops up when the phone is ringing, you can’t help but wonder what it’s going to be about. For example, at halftime of the Texas A&M game, Steve Spurrier wanted to know if we planned on making the other team punt at all in the second half.

This call came after Florida’s game with LSU was postponed until the end of the season (assuming there is an end of the season).

“It figures because it’s always LSU,” Spurrier said.

Well, not always, but I know he had a game postponed as a player against LSU, had one shifted from home to away against LSU when he was at South Carolina and can’t seem to escape it now that he’s back at Florida as the Head Football Ambassador.

Still, there have been other games affected by hurricanes and pandemics and terrorist attacks.

Let’s start at the beginning:

  1. Yes, we have been through a pandemic before. Well, not all of us. To be honest, probably none of you reading this. But the Spanish Flu carved a devastating path through this country.
    In 1918, Florida played only one football game, a 14-2 loss to Camp Johnson. UF was also depleted of student athletes by the efforts to launch an offensive in World War I the following year. Yet somehow, Texas played nine games, while Georgia Tech, Clemson and Auburn each played seven.
    And you thought this season was strange.
  2. The entire 1943 season was cancelled because of World War II. Florida had tried to play the year before even though so many men had enlisted. The Gators lost, 75-0, to Georgia.
  3. In 1964, Hurricane Hilda was headed for Baton Rouge, and the game was postponed until the end of the season. I remember listening to this game in my jammies because, of course, it was not televised, and I was 10.
    Florida won, 20-6, to finish the season 7-3. This was back before there was a Duke Mayo Bowl and a Cheez-It Bowl so this was the last game of the year. LSU went on to win the Sugar Bowl.
    “That was probably the best we played all season,” said Spurrier, then a sophomore quarterback. “Our defense was something, and we ran a fake field goal with Allen Trammell throwing the ball.”
Florida quarterback Rex Grossman (1999-2002 HHP) completed this pass to Robert Gillespie (BSESS ’05) in the 4th quarter to gain eight yards. But Rocky Top bested the Gators that day by two points.
  1. In 2001, on the Tuesday before the Tennessee game, 9/11 happened. One of the most surreal scenes was this: There was still a Florida football press conference as firemen were looking for survivors in the rubble. (I seriously thought Rex Grossman was going to enlist he was so angry at what had happened to America.)
    The SEC actually followed the NFL’s lead and decided to play its games on Saturday. Spurrier at the time said it was hard for anybody to focus in practice. On Thursday, the NFL decided to postpone all games, and the SEC followed.
    The game was instead played at the end of the season, which was not good news for the Gators because Tennessee was able to get healthy (several starters would have been out of the original game). Tennessee won, 34-32, costing one of Spurrier’s best teams a chance to play for an SEC title as well as possibly a national title.
  2. Ron Zook could never catch a break. In 2004, his third year as the Gators head coach, hurricanes crisscrossed the state, with Frances finally causing the season opener against Middle Tennessee State to be postponed.
    The only place to wedge it in was the normal open date, which mean the Gators would have to play 11 straight Saturdays. Zook told his assistants he worried about his team losing its energy with no break in sight. His concern became reality in Starkville when the Gators lost to a 1-for-5 team that had fallen to the Maine Black Bears earlier that year.
    A day later, Zook was fired.
Florida head coach Ron Zook (center) talks with wide receivers No. 8 Chad Jackson (2003-05) and No. 6 Jemalle Cornelius (BSAg ’06) and No. 15 defensive back Demetrice Webb (2003-05) on the sidelines. Gators would later learn that was Zook’s last season at UF.
  1. In 2014, Florida was ready to hit the field for the opener against Idaho. But there was a three-hour weather delay because of lightning in the area. Finally, the game began and UF’s Valdez Showers ran the kick back 64 yards to set the Gators up.
    Then, another lightning strike and the teams trudged back into their locker rooms. The game was eventually canceled and then rescheduled and then canceled again. Finally, the two teams played in Gainesville in 2018. Florida won, 63-10.
  2. We could spend a lot of space on the 2016 postponement of the LSU game, both sides accusing the other of all kinds of things. Hurricane Matthew forced Florida to postpone the game before wobbling to the East just enough to make it a beautiful day in Gainesville.
    This lit up the people in Bayou Country (especially the media), who failed to comprehend that essential emergency personnel had already been committed elsewhere and could not work a football game.
    It got ugly, real ugly, and eventually the SEC commissioner had to get involved. The final verdict? The game would be played in Baton Rouge at the end of the season (sound familiar?) during the day to keep the crowd civil, and Florida would get two home games in return.
    Florida won the game with a goal-line stand on the final play to clinch the SEC East. The players waved flags around the end zone directly in front of Tiger fans like that scene from “The Patriot.” It was pretty cool.
Gators proved victorious at the end of this brawl of a UF-LSU game by preventing this last-second attempt to score. Among the victors pictured here are No. 93 Taven Bryan (2014-17) and No. 26 Marcell Harris (BA ’17).
  1. One more hurricane game you may have forgotten: In 2017, Florida opened the season by getting embarrassed by Michigan, then was supposed to play Northern Colorado in the second game as a warm-up for Tennessee. But Hurricane Irma forced cancellation of the game, and no make-up game was scheduled.
    The next week, Florida beat Tennessee on the Feleipe Franks-to-Tyrie Cleveland heave at the buzzer. So no warm-up week was necessary.
    Think about it, though: Zook, Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain were all fired mid-season after a game was affected by weather. Spooky.

Anyway, that brings us to now. Don’t forget, four games were canceled a long time ago – the four non-conference games including FSU. Now, two postponements – Missouri and LSU – with the game against the Bayou Bengals moved back to what was supposed to be an open week before the SEC title game.

Hey, this whole season has and will be about which team adapts the best. And there will probably be a few more changes before we get through it.

By Pat Dooley (BSJ ’76) For UF Advancement Published November 4, 2020