Florida on YouTube

It's easy to forget because of the Gators' success since 1990, but Florida was actually a pretty good team throughout the 1980s. Granted a lot of it in the first part of the decade came as a result of Charley Pell breaking NCAA rules, but much of what he did wasn't anything different than what a lot of programs around the country were doing at the time.

UF won the SEC in 1984 before the title was revoked at the discovery of Pell's transgressions. My father still has commemorative beer cans that say "Florida Gators 1984 SEC Champions" on them. The Gators would have won it again in 1985 too if not for probation. It was also the first decade in program history where the Gators didn't have a season with a losing record, something they came within one year of doing in the 1920s and 1960s.

I bring all that up because today's featured video is of a game that preserved that whole "first decade without a losing record" thing. It was 1986, and the Gators would finish the season 6-5. Had one win gone the other way, it would meant a season under .500. It was looking like Auburn was on its way to a victory on November 1 of that year, but Kerwin Bell had some other ideas.

Florida Auburn '86 (via tacgle)

That dramatic comeback made the game an instant classic in the annals of Gator history. While Bell was eclipsed by the quarterbacks of the 1990s and 2000s, he is still remembered fondly by Florida fans who watched him play. He's now the head coach at Jacksonville University, where he was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award (I-AA coach of the year) in 2008.

After the jump are a couple of memorable moments from 1997, including another dramatic comeback.

The calendar year 1997 was a good one for the orange and blue side of the Florida-Florida State rivalry. In January, the Gators beat FSU 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl to secure the team's first ever national championship. Included in that epic beatdown was one of the most remarkable individual plays I've seen, Ike Hilliard's stop and pop:

Ike Hilliard "Stop and Pop" Against Florida State (via mastergatorbaiter)

Blowouts don't often contain iconic plays, since the marginal value of a single good play among many is low, but this certainly qualifies.

Later that year, No. 1 FSU came to Gainesville looking to maintain its top rank and go to the national title game. Steve Spurrier's team uncharacteristically didn't throw a single touchdown pass, as Fred Taylor would score all four on the ground, and it came down to a Taylor score late in the game to determine who would win:

Gators vs FSU 1997 game winning drive (via gogators2005)

The close win and exciting finish earned this contest the nickname "The Greatest Game Ever Played in the Swamp" among Gator fans. I unfortunately didn't get to go, but I was able to be in house for Tony George's interception of Peyton Manning, also in '97, that for a long time was the loudest I've ever heard Ben Hill Griffin Stadium be.

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