10 best examples of Cocktail Party contempt, heartbreak and hate
Depending on who you ask, Florida and Georgia will square off for the 97th (Florida) or 98th (Georgia) time Saturday on the banks of the St. John’s River in Jacksonville (3:30 p.m., CBS).
You can’t become a rivalry that old and celebrated unless you’ve got a bit of hate in you, and once you mix in a beverage or two — after all, they don’t call this game The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for nothing — the passions flow.
Georgia leads the series by 7 or 8 (depends on which fan base you ask), which is a relatively close margin, all considered. What’s unusual about Florida-Georgia (or is it Georgia-Florida?) is that over large swaths of history, one side has had runs of superiority over the other. This has only cemented the disdain among the fan bases for the other side, as extended runs of competitive dominance have left deeply ingrained scars on the psyches of both fan bases.
Older Florida fans are still traumatized by Georgia and squirm when they hear the name Vince Dooley, who beat Florida 17 times in his 25 seasons in Athens, spoiling at least 3 Gators bids at SEC championships along the way.
Georgia fans born after 1990 have never had a winning decade against Florida (that can change Saturday!) and even the most pious might swear when they hear the name Steve Spurrier, the Evil Genius who returned to Florida and flipped the script on Dooley’s dominance. In Spurrier’s 12 seasons in Gainesville, Florida beat Georgia 11 times, losing only in 1997.
Through it all, the lore and legend of the Cocktail Party has grown, defined by some astonishing instances of contempt between the two schools.
Here are the 10 best historic examples of Florida-Georgia contempt, heartbreak and hate.
10. The Fans Fight (1928)
When Charlie Bachman took the reins of the Florida football program in 1928, he knew he had a talented team but also knew that to compete regionally and nationally, he’d have to find a way to beat Georgia. The Bulldogs had walloped Florida in the first 6 meetings between the schools (Georgia would say 7) by the combined score of 190-9.
Both teams arrived in Savannah, Georgia with SEC (then the Southern Conference) Championship aspirations — the Gators were 6-0, the Bulldogs 4-1. Florida forced 2 early fumbles and eventually, broke the game open behind the All-American Dale Van Sickle. Florida won 26-6, and after Florida’s final score in the 4th quarter, Florida’s fans prematurely raced to tear down the goalposts, which enraged the Savannah locals. Fistfights broke out across the field, forcing a stoppage from the game and many arrests.
Eventually, the field was cleared, time expired and the Gators finally had a victory over Georgia. Florida would finish 9-1, losing a heartbreaker for the conference title to General Neyland’s Tennessee. The Bulldogs were so stunned by their first loss to the Gators they didn’t win another game, finishing 4-5.
9. Fourth-and-dumb (1976)
Before there was Kirby Smart’s fake punt in the SEC Championship, there was Doug Dickey’s decision against Georgia to go for it on 4th down his own 29-yard line, playing with the lead in the 3rd quarter.
Dickey had been a good player at Florida who had keyed a 30-0 Gators win over Georgia in 1952. He had less success beating the Dawgs as a head coach, but appeared to have No. 7 Georgia on the ropes in 1976 before his team was stuffed by the Dawgs on 4th-and-1.
In an ironic twist, Georgia, led by quarterback Ray Goff, another excellent player who would struggle in the Cocktail Party as a head coach, stormed back to win the game 41-27. The win keyed a Georgia run to the SEC title, but Dickey blamed no one but himself for the Gators’ heartbreak.
“We played well enough to win,” Dickey said afterward. “We lost because I made some dumb decisions and calls.” Dickey’s admission was media gold — and “Fourth-and-Dumb” was born — well before Kirby Smart faked his punt.
8. Grantham Chokes, Chas Henry doesn’t (2010)
The 2010 Florida-Georgia game was bonkers.
The Bulldogs were a young team and came to Jacksonville having rattled off 3 straight wins. Yes, the team was 4-4, but the core of a team that would win plenty of games over the next couple of seasons was starting to show promise.
The Gators were in Year 1 post-Tebow, and Urban Meyer was a sideline zombie, often seen writhing in agony and deferring duties he usually handled himself to multiple assistants. Florida had gone 0-for-October, even losing twice at home in The Swamp, unthinkable in the Meyer era.
To try to get a spark, Florida played 3 quarterbacks, with John Brantley trading snaps with 2 future NFL Pro Bowl tight ends, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed. The system fooled Georgia and frustrated defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who eventually adjusted but not before Florida had stormed to a big lead. Georgia rallied and forced overtime, but after an Aaron Murray interception, Florida had a chance to win in the first OT.
The only problem was that Florida’s normal placekicker was hurt, forcing All-SEC punter Chas Henry into kicking duties. Meyer was so unsure of Henry’s kicking ability he passed up a long field goal to try to win the game, playing for overtime. In OT, he trusted his kicker.
On the Georgia sideline, Todd Grantham “gently” reminded Henry of the scale of the kick by making a choke sign in Henry’s direction:
Henry responded the best way possible — by drilling the 37-yard kick to beat the Dawgs, and silence Florida’s future defensive coordinator.
7. Dooley’s bag of tricks breaks Florida’s heart (1975)
In 1975, the Gators knew if they could best the rival Bulldogs, all they would need is a win over Kentucky to secure the school’s first SEC championship.
The Gators led 7-3 late in the game and had stuffed Georgia’s power run game all day.
Vince Dooley wasn’t known for trick plays. He believed — and still believes — in fundamental, physical football. But he knew his Georgia team needed something — anything — to find a way past a ferocious top 10 Florida team in 1976.
“We had a tight end pass we had run a few times in practice, but never had a moment to run it in a game,” Dooley told the press following the game. “This was that moment. We needed to make a play to win.”
The play started as a reverse, but instead of tight end Richard Appleby running or handing it back off, he stopped, pivoted and threw a parabola to the other sideline to a streaking Gene Washington, who was quarantined behind a fooled and stunned Gators defense.
The Dawgs won 10-7, and the Gators’ SEC championship dreams were once again shattered on the banks of the St. John’s River.
6. Spurrier’s Jab at Ray Goff (1991)
What would a list of clean, old-fashioned hating be without the Hatin, err, Head Ball Coach?
The Heisman winning quarterback returned to his alma mater as Head Coach in 1990 and the SEC, as well as the Cocktail Party, was never the same.
Spurrier’s teams roasted Georgia in his first 2 seasons, overwhelming them with over 600 yards of passing and 8 passing touchdowns and outscoring them by a combined score of 83-20.
After the 1991 game, a giddy Spurrier took a shot at Georgia coach Ray Goff, who was well-known as an ace recruiter but whose teams couldn’t play to the standard you’d expect given their recruiting rankings.
“Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players?” Spurrier quipped. “I don’t understand that. What happens to them?”
This was only the beginning of Spurrier’s hate-filled reign of terror over Georgia.
5. The Georgia Stomp (2007)
Mark Richt was tired of losing to Florida by 2007, having beaten the Gators only once in his tenure in Athens despite winning 2 SEC Championships and competing for another.
Florida, the defending national champions, arrived in Jacksonville confident, thanks to the sterling play of sophomores Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.
A touchdown underdog, Georgia took the ball and drove the length of the field to score on its first possession. After Knowshon Moreno plunged over the top for the touchdown, the Bulldogs’ bench emptied, with the entire Georgia sideline filling the endzone to celebrate and dance.
Georgia was flagged for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after the celebration, but it didn’t matter. The “Georgia Stomp” set the tone for the day, as the Bulldgos were the more physical and aggressive football team, winning 42-30.
4. Urban’s Revenge (2008)
Everywhere Urban Meyer went in the spring and summer of 2008, he’d tell people it was “a big deal” how Georgia had stomped and danced against his team in 2007.
Meyer meant it.
The 2008 Cocktail Party was the first top 10 matchup between the two programs since 1999, with both teams holding only 1 loss upon arrival in Jacksonville.
The game was close for a while until a Joe Haden interception of Matthew Stafford turned a nip and tuck game into a rout.
With nearly all the Georgia fans in the stadium gone and Florida leading 49-10 in the game’s waning moments, Urban Meyer used his final 2 timeouts in the game’s final minutes, allowing his team and fans to bask in the glory of a 39-point lead and making a tired, whipped Bulldogs team stay on the field and watch them celebrate.
Meyer initially played coy about the decision, saying it wasn’t about the prior year. Refreshingly, he’s changed his tune.
“We had 2 timeouts … I wish I had 3, to be honest with you,” Meyer told ESPN for the Saturdays in the South documentary series. “My biggest fear was that when your manhood gets challenged like that, are you going to do something to retaliate? The biggest thing was … I talked to our players nonstop about, ‘Do not get involved.’ Every reporter was asking our players, ‘What was going to be the payback?’
Well, 49-10 was the payback. The timeouts were just a little old-fashioned hate.
3. Georgia 75, Florida 0 (1942)
In 1942, war had broken out across the globe and the Gators lost the bulk of their upperclassmen to the draft or volunteers to the armed services. According to the University of Florida archives, Florida lost 8 starters before the season and several more during it, as well as a handful of coaches who wanted to join the fight against fascism. By 1943, the Gators’ personnel losses to the war were so great the school elected not to field a team.
At Georgia, coach Wally Butts worked hard to make sure he kept his football team together and out of the war. Stars Charley Trippi and Frank Sinkwich were among those who received special draft deferments for enrolling in the University of Georgia’s ROTC program. This kept the Dawgs together and helped them arrive in Jacksonville ranked No. 1.
Before the game, Butts and Georgia knew the Gators would be playing without 16 regulars and multiple coaches. Georgia showed no mercy, whipping Florida’s young reserves 75-0 behind 7 Trippi and Sinkwich touchdowns.
The margin of victory remains the largest in series history.
2. “Half a Hundred in Athens” (1995)
In 1995, Florida traveled to Athens to play Between the Hedges while Jacksonville’s stadium was being reconstructed for the soon-to-debut Jaguars. Danny Wuerffel threw for 5 touchdowns, staking the Gators to a comfortable lead in the 4th quarter, but Spurrier kept throwing anyway.
His backup quarterback, Eric Kresser (who later won an FCS national championship at Marshall), threw 2 late touchdowns — 1 with less than 90 seconds remaining — to give Florida a 52-17 victory.
When asked by a reporter why he threw down the field up 28 with 1:21 remaining, Spurrier deadpanned: “We heard no one had ever hung half-a-hundred on Georgia in Athens before. We wanted to do that.”
This remains, without question, the most hateful thing Steve Spurrier has ever done.
1. “Run, Lindsay, Run” (1980)
Trailing the underdog Gators 21-20 late in the 4th quarter, Vince Dooley’s best Georgia team was on the ropes in 1980. In the shadow of their own goalposts with a minute to play, their dreams of Georgia’s national championship were about to die at the feet of the hated Gators.
No play in the history of the Cocktail Party is as famous or has brought as much joy to one side and as much agony to another as what happened next. And I am certainly not as worthy as the late, great Larry Munson to tell the rest of the story:
"MAN, is there gonna be some property destroyed tonight!"
38 years ago today: Run Lindsay, Run. pic.twitter.com/N3QbEpWrRt
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 8, 2018