College football season is well within reach!
With less than 100 days until kickoff, we here at Team Speed Kills are introducing a brand-new, quotidian countdown series to help you prepare for the first slate of college football action on August 26th.
In this series, we will post a daily SEC-related fact and/or story that corresponds to the number of the day in the countdown. Hopefully, you’ll find this series enlightening and entertaining. If you do, click that ‘share’ button we all know and love. If you do not, quit lying to yourself.
The SEC Championship Game has always been a big deal. In December 1992, when the SEC became the nation’s first conference to play a postseason game, thousands flocked to Alabama’s Legion Field to watch the Crimson Tide defeat the Florida Gators. In December 1993, thousands flocked to Alabama’s Legion Field to watch the Gators defeat the Crimson Tide.
It was only fitting for the 1994 SEC Championship Game to be a rubber match. Only, this time, the venue became a bit more centralized for the rest of the conference, moving from Birmingham to Atlanta’s mammoth Georgia Dome.
All year long, the Gators and Tide looked to be on a collision course, yet again. Florida lost just once in conference play, to Auburn, while the Crimson Tide ran the table to set the showdown. As a result, Alabama came in ranked third in the country with a perfect 11-0 record. A win would almost assure them a spot in the National Championship against Nebraska or Penn State (who ended up splitting the title that year, because college football’s postseason was very dumb up until three years ago).
The game more than lived up to the hype. If you’d like to watch the full thing (highly recommended, as the impeccable Keith Jackson is on the call.), the video is right HERE.
We will, instead, go over the highlights.
The Tide struck first. After forcing a three-and-out, Alabama started moving the ball down the field. On third and four at his own 25, Tide QB Jay Barker rolled out of the pocket, avoided a sack, and threw a perfect strike to Curtis Brown. Brown, who made two Florida defenders run into each other after catching the ball, was off to the races. He wasn’t caught. Brown went 70 yards to get on the board.
Florida sophomore quarterback Danny Wuerffel (the subject of yesterday’s countdown post!) had his struggles early on, as the Gators had to punt on their second possession, as well.
By his third drive, the struggles appeared to be gone, as Wuerffel unloaded a big completion to Reidel Anthony to get into Alabama territory. Anthony wasn’t done. A few plays later, he hauled in a leaping touchdown catch on a beautiful throw from Wuerffel to tie the game at seven.
Despite a strong effort from their rushing attack on the next drive, Alabama would stall out in the red zone and settle for a short field goal to take a 10-7 lead, which was the score to end the first quarter.
The Gators answered with a field goal of their own on their first drive of the second quarter to square things back up at 10.
After Barker threw a fairly awful interception to give Florida the ball right back, Wuerffel threw an even worse interception to give Alabama the ball. To Wuerffel’s credit, though, he was able to shove Deshea Townsend out of bounds and prevent a touchdown.
That play by Wuerffel loomed large, because Alabama had to punt. Florida also had to punt, and Townsend took it 44 yards before being shoved out of bounds by, again, the last possible player. As a result, Alabama ended up having to punt again, and this time Florida was able to block it and grab premium field position near the end of the first half. After a short drive, Wuerffel dove up the middle on the goal line to give Florida a 17-10 lead near the end of the first half. That remained the score going into halftime.
The third quarter was a war of defenses, with two Alabama field goals representing the only points. Heading into the fourth, the Gators held a 17-16 lead.
The fourth quarter started like the entire third went. Defense. Punts. Florida trying not to blow the game.
Then, it happened. On 2nd and 10 from his own 15, Wuerffel threw a pass that got tipped in the air and landed right in the hands of an Alabama defender who walked into the end zone. For the first time since the first quarter, Alabama led.
To his credit, Wuerffel didn’t back down. Getting the ball back with nine minutes to go and down by six points, the gunslinger kept slinging with confidence, picking up yardage through the air.
With six minutes to go, driving into Alabama territory, Florida coach Steve Spurrier caught the Tide defense off guard by having Wuerffel throw behind the line of scrimmage to Chris Doering. Doering then unloaded a perfect pass to Aubrey Hill to get the Gators all the way down to the two. Wuerffel found Doering in the end zone on the next play, and Florida converted the extra point to take a 24-23 lead with 5:55 to play.
Barker and Alabama tried with all their might to drive down the field, but on a 4th and 13 with 1:07 to play, an errant Barker pass found Florida’s Eddie Lane to seal the game for the Gators, giving them the rubber match victory and ending Alabama’s perfect season.
While the game may not have ultimately sent the winner to the National Championship as later SEC Championship games would, it ended a perfect season and is one of just two SEC Championships to be decided by a single point. After the blowouts of the past few seasons, it would be nice to see 2017’s SEC Championship be a little bit more like 1994, wouldn’t it?
94 days till kickoff...