ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11: Florida Gators mascot Albert gestures during their game against the Tennessee Volunteers in the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 11, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Last year, we tried 50 For 50, and got halfway done before things cropped up. This year, Alligator Army is coming back with 100 For 100, with 100 articles in the 100 days leading up to the first Florida Gators football game of the 2012 season, and will run down storylines, profile players, examine history, and make some predictions, possibly all haphazardly. The only thing we can promise is that each day's entry will bring us all one step closer to "Herrrrrrrrre ... come the Gators!"
Our last post in this series (from, uh, a while ago), discussed how good Florida has had it since 1996, the generally accepted first "best" year for Florida football. But that wasn't really the first "best" year; that would be 1995, which featured the Gators' first unbeaten and untied regular season, a dominant offense, a punishing defense ... and probably the worst ending to any season by a great team in the last 20 years. (Go ahead, I'll hear your arguments, LSU and Ohio State fans.)
Here's just a sampling of what Florida did in 1995:
- Ran its regular season slate at 11-0, then won the SEC Championship Game by a 34-3 count over Arkansas.
- Allowed more than 24 points just twice, against Peyton Manning-led Tennessee and at Auburn.
- Destroyed Tennessee in the most lopsided 62-37 game ever, which featured Lawrence Wright's devastation of Joey Kent and 48 straight points to recover from a 30-14 deficit.
- Avenged two consecutive losses to Auburn that arguably cost Florida national title shots in 1993 and 1994.
- Scored 28 points in every game but one, and 30 in all but three games.
- Outscored opponents 534-201 before its bowl game.
- Beat the "Big Three" rivals (Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State) by a combined 149-78 count.
But, obviously, and perhaps rightly, we typically remember 1995 for what happened on January 2, 1996.
That's when Nebraska eviscerated the consensus second-best team in the country by a 62-24 count, and Tommie Frazier began a marathon that continues to this day in our nightmares. I was too young to really remember it live, thank goodness, and I probably didn't watch much of it if I did, but I remember the replays on SportsCenter, and I still, to this day, have never steeled myself to watch all of it. That loss hurts, and it left a deep psychic wound, like all the big ones do.
You shouldn't be stunned by that. Florida fans have kept a healthy skepticism and reserve for achievements that aren't national titles — and even for the ones that are, frankly, considering how many people I know who remember everything about the losses in the national title years — and things like that Fiesta Bowl loss to Nebraska are as much a part of our collective memory as the greatest nights are. But the good thing about them is that those bittersweet nights make the good ones really good.
1995 taught us that winning it all is hard. 1996 taught us that winning it all is friggin' awesome.
Would 1996 have been as sweet if 1995 hadn't ended so badly? Eh, it'd probably have been close, especially considering the unique Florida State rematch angle. But would it have felt so deserved and hard-earned? No way.