Florida Has Won Seven Consecutive Games against Georgia in in the 1990s. but Think Back to the 1980s ... It Hasn't Been That Long since It Was the Other Way around. DUELING DECADES

Article excerpt

It comes down to perception. Numbers tell the story of a

rivalry, emotion shows the way.

Never have two decades so alike felt so different in the

storied history of the Florida-Georgia game.

The Georgia Bulldogs won eight of 10 games in the 1980s,

dominating the series like never before. The Florida Gators have

since won seven in a row in the 1990s, and need one more win to

set the series record for consecutive victories.

Two decades, two distinctly different emotional ties. The 1980s

fed the bitter, passionate rivalry. The 1990s fueled

indifference.

"It used to be where Florida people took great pride in winning

and talking about it -- like Georgia used to [in the 1980s],"

said former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue, a key player in some

of the series' biggest games in the early 1980s. "It's not close

to that anymore. Florida people have grown to accept they're

going to win."

More than anything, that makes the weird emotional void between

the decades harder to understand. There never used to be a

bigger game on either schedule. Lately, it's simply another

Southeastern Conference game.

"It's too predictable now," said Georgia Athletic Director

Vince Dooley, who had a 17-7-1 record vs. Florida as coach of

the Bulldogs from 1964-88. "Even some of the times when we were

good enough to have won by a good margin, for the most part, all

of those games were games that somehow would go down to the

wire."

That, Dooley says, is what the rivalry needs again. That would

also mean a switch to the days of the 1980s -- when the rivalry

was hotter than ever and the games were some of the best in

series history.

"I can assure you this is still a very big game for the

Gators," said Florida coach Steve Spurrier. "It's a very big

rivalry."

Still, no stretch of games defines the rivalry more than the

first six games of the 1980s. Although five were won by Georgia,

all were emotionally draining games that had a profound impact

on each program.

Georgia won 26-21 in 1980, a game that included the most

dramatic play in series history. Lindsay Scott's 93-yard catch

and run on a pass from Belue gave the Bulldogs the last-minute

victory, and buoyed their national-championship run.

That nationally televised game also introduced Georgia tailback

Herschel Walker -- a future Heisman Trophy winner and one of the

best players in college history -- to the nation. In three years

against Florida, he rushed for 649 yards and scored eight

touchdowns, and was as much an emotional obstacle as a physical

problem.

In 1981, his leaping 1-yard touchdown run capped Georgia's

fourth-quarter comeback and gave the 'Dogs another 26-21 win. He

rushed for 192 yards on 47 carries and scored twice, and caught

four passes for 55 yards and two more touchdowns.

A year later, with Florida coming off program-setting wins over

Miami and Southern California, Walker had 219 yards and three

touchdowns on 35 carries in a 44-0 win.

"They [Florida] had us beat in 1980, and then there was the

Lindsay Scott play," Walker said. "All of a sudden, he's taking

off down the left side, nobody can catch him and we go on to win

the national championship. I had good games against [Florida]

the next two years, but I don't see how anything could outshine

that first one."

Ironically, the next three games were as big in series lore.

Georgia's 99-yard fourth-quarter drive gave it a 10-9 win in

1983, and kept Florida from clinching a share of its first SEC

championship. …