Florida head coach Ron Zook was buried under high expectations in 2002. Here he was in his first season in Gainesville following the legendary Steve Spurrier. UF fans expected the days of national championship contention and Heisman Trophy winners to continue.
They were in for a surprise.
Fortunately for Zook, the Gators had a chance to rebound against an unranked Auburn team. The Tigers gave Florida everything they had, and quarterback Rex Grossman needed to make the throw of his life to prevent a three-game losing streak.
Rex Grossman’s Game-Winning TD Pass vs. Auburn
The bounce-back looked like it was going well. UF built a 23-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Then, the tide dramatically shifted.
The Tigers scored 16 unanswered points to tie the game. An improbable comeback was in reach as they drove into UF territory, setting up a 23-yard field goal to win the game with 30 seconds left.
Kicker Damon Duval lined it up. Florida fans were nervous; they had a familiarity with Duval. He hit a game-winning 44-yarder the year before to upset the then top-ranked Gators.
History looked like it was going to repeat itself.
Defensive end Bobby McCray stuck his huge paw up to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
It’s third-and-10 after the Gators failed to move the ball. Grossman takes a shotgun snap, drops back and sees an Auburn defender torpedo in his direction. He slings a pass to an open Taylor Jacobs in the end zone. Jacobs hauls in the throw for the game-winning touchdown.
Florida held on and won, 30-23. Zook likely breathed a sigh of relief.
The throw was Grossman’s second touchdown pass of the night and by far his most important.
College football fans have a reputation for rationality, so I know they would’ve forgiven Zook had his team lost its third straight game.
I guess we’ll never know.