There’s no shortage of special moments in the Florida-Florida State rivalry. From Tim Tebow’s “Soak at Doak” run to Ike Hilliard’s “Stop-N-Pop” touchdown that helped UF capture a national championship to “The Swindle in the Swamp,” there’ve been countless passionate plays between these fierce rivals.
The 1990s were the pinnacle of that. Every single year, the two met at the end of the season as top-10 teams. The game often had national title implications or meant a trip to the BCS National Championship Game when it was introduced in 1998. FSU won national titles in 1993 and 1999 and Florida its first in 1996.
One meeting that will always be unforgettable is the 1997 installment now known as the “Greatest Game Every Played in The Swamp.”
Florida-Florida State 1997
In 1997, Florida State traveled to Gainesville as the No. 2 team in the country. The Seminoles were 10-0 and heading straight for another national championship.
The defending champion Florida Gators under head coach Steve Spurrier were out of the hunt by November. UF dropped games to Georgia and LSU earlier in the season and were hoping to ruin Florida State’s season in The Swamp.
Spurrier threw a curveball at FSU head coach Bobby Bowden that night. He rotated quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise constantly during the game, keeping the ‘Noles defense on their toes.
For much of the game, that worked. Florida kept it close and found themselves down four points with just two minutes left in the fourth quarter. FSU was in good position after a Sebastian Janikowski field goal that put Florida State up 29-25.
All FSU had to do was not give up “the big play.”
But on the first snap after the kickoff, Doug Johnson found Jacquez Green “behind the defense” for one of the biggest plays in this rivalry.
Jacquez Green’s 63-Yard Catch
Johnson threw a perfect ball to wide receiver Jacquez Green, who got open down the sideline on a hitch-and-go route. He slithered down the field for a massive 63-yard gain before he was tackled inside the 20-yard line.
“Green is behind the defense!” the announcer yelled out.
Florida running back Fred Taylor led the charge to score the touchdown, and FSU quarterback Thad Busby threw an interception on the team’s ensuing drive. Just like that, Florida had ruined its rival’s shot at a national title.
“This was a special one,” Spurrier told the Sun-Sentinel after the comeback. “We needed to win one like this, ’cause we’ve sure lost a few of them like that.”
The Gainesville Sun put together a list of some of the loudest games in Florida history in 2003, and this one (and the catch) ranked right up at the top.
″(My father) was literally screaming in my ear trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear anything . . . it was so damn loud. I finally experienced what it was for something to be so loud that I couldn’t even hear myself think. I barely even remember Fred (Taylor) scoring because of the ringing in my ears. Thinking about it now, it gives me goose bumps,” UF graduate Kevin Sweeny wrote to The Sun.
Florida went on to beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and finished 10-2, but all that mattered was they beat Florida State. Without Doug Johnson’s pass to Jacquez Green, that probably never happens.