Florida plays Kentucky in Commonwealth Stadium this Saturday in a game that those paid to actually write about the game without profanities refer to as a "game that matters." Mattering or not, Florida versus Kentucky has always been a movable feast of a game, albeit sometimes a morbidly fascinating one--like a good bear-baiting match or bullfight, even the blowouts have had their points of interest along the way to the predictable finish.
Therefore, we begin our own sentimental jersey with the team that has been, in our lifetime at least, the most charismatic of SEC doormats, Kentucky. We have to do this now because, after 20 straight victories, the Wildcats stand as good a chance of snapping the streak as they ever have, so we must look back on the ashes while we can.
1993: "Doering's got a touchdown!" An announcer who has a simple factual statement as his standard, go-to memory call is a less than charismatic announcer, but that's Florida's own Mick Hubert, a sapling next to the Redwood of Larry Munson. If he were a writer, he'd have to cite an industrial manual as his finest work; if he were a musician, he would have written the Empire Carpet song.
Hubert's extremely factual call comes from a game where the Fun 'n Gun misfired in cataclysmic fashion: Terry Dean the INT Machine and Danny Wuerffel threw a combined seven interceptions against Kentucky, giving the 'Cats short field, freebie scores, and all the rope they needed to tie up Florida in a 20-17 game on the road.
Wuerffel was young at the time, as in the kind of young where he showed up to the game and people remarked about that cute middle school fan who came in full pads with his own unpronounceable name on the back and wanted to go play on the field with the big boys.
He also threw like a middle schooler hefting a full-sized ball for the first time: hefting it from his shoulder from his hips, driving up through the legs and shotputting it into the field of play awkwardly. Somehow, improbably, the ball always seemed to end up where it should...in the arms of Chris Doering, for example, with seven seconds left on the clock to stab Kentucky dead, 24-20.
This was the one moment of tension in a tale of slaughter and spiteful smiting otherwise known as...
The Curry Years: Blood on the Highway, '90-'96. When watching Mad Max, the camera shoots right from the front of the trucks, so that when Max, for example, steps on the gas pedal and crushes a mohawked, shotgun-wielding punk with the full bulk and force of an 18-wheeler, you fully understand just how much unadulterated vengeance flows through the man's veins.
The camera angles were extreme and unforgiving during the Bill Curry era, as well. Curry let Spurrier go when he cleared out Pepper Rodgers' staff out and tossed the budding young genius-baby out with the bathwater. Failing to recognize the obvious radiant halo of football god-dom around him, Curry set the stage for a seven year vengeance play coordinated by the hands of the most vengeful playcaller this side of Genghis Khan.
The '93 game was an outlier compared to the rest of Bill Curry's extremely long and painful lesson in exactly why he should not have tossed Spurrier to the wind at Tech: promising his coaching staff he would "never call the dogs off" against Curry, Spurrier won every game he coached against Curry by an average score of 46-13, including a pair of epic 65-0 and 73-7 games that still burn in our memory as the biggest asswhippings we've seen. Toddlers getting pistol-whipped by crack dealers had a fairer fight on their hands than those teams.
The Hal Mumme years: Combover Genius, '97--'01.
Perhaps the most fun we've ever had during this series as a Florida fan came during the Hal Mumme years, when Steve Spurrier not only faced a coach he hated in Mumme, but one who went leagues out of his way to piss in Spurrier's oatmeal at every chance. We're guessing Spurrier hated Mumme to begin with, since he came into Kentucky a self-proclaimed offensive genius, and lord knows a diva hates to share the spotlight.
And Kentucky would ring up points with Mumme's "Air Raid" offense against Florida, sometimes even getting flush with greed and attempting numerous onside kicks against Florida in 1997 to ensure a good, vitamin-rich hatred sprang up between the two coaches. Spurrier's explanation for the multiple onsides?
''If I had a defense like Hal Mumme has, I'd be trying them on every kickoff.''
The world also owes Mumme for introducing Kentucky to three things:
1. Tim Couch, NFL Draft Pick Queen. Cleveland, you're welcome!
2. Jared Lorenzen. You know the world is a better place thanks to Mumme's willingness to play a 400 pound quarterback who ate his playbook accidentally several times a week.
3. Offensive assistant Mike Leach coached the best offenses Kentucky ever had before adding the innovation of "downfield passing" to the mix and leaving UK for Oklahoma and eventually his home port of Lubbock. So pirates of the world, ye owe Mumme for bringing up such a legendary buccaneer when he was but a mere pip of a lad.
4. A slew of NCAA violations leading to his departure on--surprise!--signing day in 2001.
Mumme is now fighting terrorists one by one and coaching the New Mexico State Aggies. He still denies the existence of the forward pass and his bald spot.
Guy Morriss, Hans Moleman of Coaching, '01-02. You know what we remember about Guy Morriss? Him getting punched in the balls. Congratulations, you're a head coach now? SANCTIONED! Punch in the balls. Hey, you think you're going to beat Florida with the game tied 34-34 in the 4th? KEIWAN RATLIFF'D! Punch in the balls. Morriss' teams played with a rigor and toughness unseen in Mumme's teams and played for exactly 59 hard minutes. That other one minute? Punched them in the balls every time. Ratliff applied fist to balls in the waning minutes of a tight game with a 96 yard TD interception and an intercepted two point conversion to doom the Wildcats in '02.
Kentucky still went 7-5 once under Morriss, halcyon times by any definition for a Kentucky team pre-2007. And for their hard work, they received what might the gridiron equivalent of an asteroid, traveling for millions of years through the vacuum of space unimpeded and content, suddenly crashing into your unsuspecting testes: the post-gatorade celebration Hail Mary against LSU.
BLUEGRASS MIRACL'D! Again, Guy Morriss collapses in pain on the sideline. We can't blame him for leaving for Baylor in 2003. At least Bears losses aren't even close. There's a comfort in certain defeat, you know.
Rich Brooks, pre-awesomeness, '03--'05. And this brings us to the suddenly good Kentucky of the present, which only had to go through three straight years of suck-all to get here. In his first year at Kentucky, Rich Brooks nearly had a prestigious scalp on his wall when Kentucky held a 21-3 lead in the fourth quarter in Lexington over [NAME REDACTED]'s suddenly inept Florida team.
They blew this lead in a hailstorm of human error and spastic execution by Florida, yet no error stood taller than that of Jared Lorenzen. Used to doing everything himself (and perhaps distracted by a food vendor jiggling a tray of hot dogs alluringly in the stands,) Lorenzen, asked to pass with a 21-16 lead in the wee remnants of the fourth, wore Channing Crowder for a full four seconds or so before thinking "MMM HOT DOG SHIT MUST THROW!" and tossing a wild, almost sidearm pass to Johnny Lamar for a completion.
Johnny Lamar played for Florida. Florida scored, and Rich Brooks thought the whole thing was bullshit. He still thinks its bullshit that he, like the bullshit coaches before him, haven't won a game against Florida. He has every chance to correct that on Saturday, something we totally think is most definitely not bullshit. Really.