Reason to celebrate, Part Two: Roadies, rivalries and reunions – Just another Saturday in the SEC

After a long celebratory Friday evening at work, I woke up late the following morning.  Stumbling to my phone, I rubbed my eyes to see if I had received any messages.  I was taking a rare Saturday night off.  My plan: a pilgrimage to Gainesville to see my alma mater take on the dreaded University of Tennessee Volunteers, the school’s most heated conference rival since I first stepped foot on campus.  Old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in far too long, were descending upon the ‘Ville as well.

Groggily I reached for my phone to see if anyone had texted.  The lone message read “Wanna trip?”

It was going to be a good day.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at FloridaI passed on the generous and only slightly inappropriate offer to take LSD for the football game.  My days of ingesting hallucinogens are long gone.  Life is trippy enough.  I knew, however, from the offer that we were in for a quite a ride.

While homecoming weekend isn’t until November, this was a homecoming in its truest form.  These are friends I not only worked with for years but lived with, traveled with and with whom I spent almost every waking hour for years.  These are friends whose nicknames morphed into their identities with them finding it odd when you referred to them by anything else.  These are friends who know you better than you know yourself.  These are friends that when you get together after far too long, your stomach hurts from laughing about stories long since forgotten, friends whose very souls helped color in between the lines (and sometimes outside them) of your life’s coloring book, friends without whom your life would be woefully incomplete, or at least a lot less entertaining.

I arrived at our old bar, a place constructed on memories.  It took about twenty minutes to complete all the greetings, hugs upon hugs upon hugs.  Despite some of us not seeing each other in over ten years, it was as if nothing had changed.

As it turned out, we were soon treated to a football game equally as special.  It couldn’t have happened any other way.

Lils 2015

Florida’s rivalry with Tennessee over the past twenty-five years has been as heated as any in the nation.  Florida’s recent streak of ten straight wins has sent Rocky Top into a tizzy and kept Gator fans on the edge of their seats.

Many of those wins had been close.  This year, Tennessee had enough talent to end the streak once and for all.

That talent showed on Saturday.  Tennessee’s quarterback Joshua Dobbs was unstoppable.  He ran the ball 18 times for 136 yards.  Over the streak, Florida had contained the big run.  Dobbs, however, had two back-breakers, one for 29 yards and another for 62.  Both of those drives resulted in scores.  He even caught a pass for a touchdown.  Their running back Jalen Hurd wasn’t bad either, finishing with 28 carries and 102 yards.  Clearly Tennessee coach Butch Jones had a plan.  Beat Florida on the ground.

It was working.

Gator fans were nervous.  Deep into the game, down by two scores, we had all but readied ourselves for defeat.  The streak was about to come to an end.  The town would become awash with Tennessee orange.  As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, down by thirteen points, it looked like all was lost.

How could this be?  How could we all have congregated only to witness our program lose to a team they hadn’t lost to in a decade?

Enter Will Grier and a string of nearly miraculous or at a minimum highly unlikely fourth down conversions.  4th and 7, Grier to McGee, good!  4th and 8, Grier to Powell, good!  Touchdown!  As I mentioned to one friend, there are defining moments in a young quarterback’s career.  This would be Grier’s.

GrierUnable to control clock, Tennessee went three and out, giving the ball back to Florida with two minutes left in the game.  You could almost hear the collective groans from Tennessee fans.  They had to know it was coming.

It did.

On fourth down with, count ‘em, 14 yards to go for a first down with the game, our night, the streak, the season, perhaps even a legacy on the line, Grier completed a pass to freshman phenomenon Antonio Callaway that went 63 yards for a touchdown.

Florida fans celebrated… but Tennessee would get the ball back one last time.  Down by a point, the Vols needed only a field goal.  They got their chance.  Tennessee field goal kicker, a young Aaron Medley, would trot onto the field, albeit from 55 yards out.  He had already made two that day but not from that distance.

The ball was snapped, the kick was off… and no good.  Gators celebrated, again, until they heard the whistle.  Florida’s Jim McElwain had called a time out.

Medley would have another opportunity.  Nobody watching could believe it, certainly not the slew of us that paced holes into the floor of our beloved bar.  A come from behind win, then loss, of that magnitude wouldn’t make or break our night but a happy outcome would most definitely extend the activities into the wee hours of the morning.

The kick sailed BARELY wide right and we were among countless thousands to go absolutely nuts.  It was Florida-Tennessee.  I was with some of my best friends in the world.  It couldn’t have ended other way.  Who needed LSD?  The rush was exhilarating enough on its own.

We had all just witnessed the second largest fourth quarter comeback in modern school history.

The rest of the evening was a whirlwind of high fives, hugs, laughs and stories told of the ridiculousness of years past, reminding us that friendships, like football games, are never to be underappreciated.  After hopping from bar to see old friends to another bar to see old friends to yet another bar to see even more old friends, our RV-riding, cigar-smoking, Grand Marnier-drinking, pepperoni pizza-downing adventures finally came to an end with embraces and the promise to not let it be that long before we did it all again.

It was college football at its finest, or at its ugliest, depending on where you went to school, high, lows and unscripted drama that you simply can’t recreate.

To my dearest friends of the world, thanks for making it such a memorable weekend and for reminding me once again, twenty-five years later, why it’s so great to be a Florida Gator.

Coach Mac

18 thoughts on “Reason to celebrate, Part Two: Roadies, rivalries and reunions – Just another Saturday in the SEC

  1. Not to rub it in but McElwain is a former Alabama OC. Wish he was still here instead of Lame Brain Kiffen. You guys should be back in the national picture soon with the talent you can recruit.

    Nothing like revisiting the alma mater. I didn’t see UA for probably 15 years but with my kid attending there now, I get to relive my old hotspots / habits. My kid can’t believe some of the shit I’ve told him we got away with there in the 80’s. Way too dangerous to pull the stuff we did back in the day.

  2. We knew all about that experience, Moose. That’s why we liked him. Also know he knows how to develop a quarterback. Grier took a big first step on Saturday. That can only serve as a confidence builder.

    Let’s see what he does against Ole Miss and one of the best defenses in the nation this Saturday.

    And true, times have most definitely changed. Although I’m sure there are some kids in school doing some pretty bizarre shit. You know, carrying on the tradition.

  3. The Gators have been trod upon on and off the field in the last few years and it certainly had to be a welcome circumstance for the entire community, alumni, etc. to make this historic comeback against the Vols. Butch Jones is…well…Butch Jones. That doesn’t take away from the victory a bit. I too wonder what goes on at college these days…it is hard for me to believe they are burning the candle at all ends like us grizzled veterans used to. You know how that goes…”back in my day we had to walk five miles to school in the snow.” We studied hard. We partied harder. Somehow…we came out the other side.

  4. There was just something about Tennessee, Burnsy.

    When my uncle was in school there, Georgia was obviously the huge rivalry.

    That all changed in the 80s and 90s when Florida State and Tennessee took over on the hated scale. Besides, Georgia never put up much of a fight.

    Now that they’re relevant again, it’s good to have one more team to hate.

  5. Sports…The ultimate reality TV.
    Better than a thrill ride at times. Amazing how a win by “your team” can lift the spirits. Congrats on keeping the streak alive.

    Not to be rude or offend, but as a red-blooded American male I am a visual creature by nature – And an irreverent asshole to boot, so here goes….The girl in the middle of the motley crew looks pretty fit. She ever get Chumped?

  6. Big one in the ‘Ville this weekend, Bleed.

    We’ll see how good or bad these Gators really are.

    And that’s a big negative, sir. She was more like a sister to me. And if you can believe this one, she is older than me.

    Let’s just say we’ve aged well. Must be all the Grand Marnier that’s kept us preserved.

  7. SC and friends…did you see the over/under for the Texas Tech-Baylor game hit 90.5 points earlier today? That’s wild…college football will be outscoring college basketball in another year or two.

  8. Cheap shot Chris…but not untrue. The Big Ten might surprise a lot of folks this year with good teams who can also score if their tight ass coaches will let them. I can’t wait for hoops to fire up!

  9. Go Florida!!!! My Tide looked ok playing old school football against GA. Since I live in ATL it makes the next 4 years enjoyable. Not a Gators fan but since SC is my new hero I’m on his side. Still want McElwain back tho. Trade you – you can have Kiffen

  10. Burnsy…

    So what’s your take on Ohio State?

    They seem to be playing down to their opponents’ level yet turn it on when the shit is about to hit the fan.

    Why is that team not blowing Indiana out by 70?

  11. Kiffen, Moose.

    Now that’s funny.

    I had a feeling Bama was going to head into Athens and put a beatin’ on ’em. All that means is that a pissed off Georgia team will have something for Florida.

    Here’s Florida next stretch of games:

    @ Mizzou
    @ LSU
    vs. UGA

    Should be an interesting stretch of ballgames.

    How about that first half by Grier tho?

    17 of 20 for 4 TDs and no picks? Who does that?

  12. Damn SC. Old post I know but just when you thought it was happening for UF Grier has to get suspended?

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