Steve Spurrier discusses the one loss he just can't get over from his coaching career
Despite all the success Steve Spurrier’s Gators had against Tennessee over the years, the one game that sticks out in the rivalry for the former Florida head coach is the 2001 game. Unfortunately for Spurrier, he ended up on the wrong side of his final contest inside the Swamp.
While Spurrier can take solace in the fact his head coaching record was 8-4 over the Vols during his career in Gainesville, the 2001 game remains with the Ole Ball Coach to this day. The Gators entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation and were poised to head to the Rose Bowl to play for the BCS National Championship Game with a win over No. 4 Tennessee. That obviously didn’t happen, and Spurrier left Florida for the NFL soon after.
Spurrier’s final home game as coach of the Gators resulted in a loss to rival Tennessee.
The Vols entered the 2001 game as a 17-point underdog but thanks to a herculean effort from running back Travis Stephens, he rushed for 226 yards and two scores, Tennessee won the game by a score of 34-32. The result of the game sent the Vols to Atlanta as SEC East champions.
The loss also likely cost Florida quarterback Rex Grossman the 2001 Heisman Trophy, as the Gator QB finished second in the voting to Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch. Grossman was only 63 votes shy of winning the award after receiving 708 points to Crouch’s 770.
In the wake of Atlanta’s epic collapse in Super Bowl 51, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel recently caught up with Spurrier to ask his thoughts on the worst defeat of his career. Spurrier didn’t hesitate to bring up the 2001 Tennessee game.
“We had such a super, super team that year,” Spurrier said. “That’s why the loss was so hard to take. Tennessee ran it right down our throats.”
Spurrier would later cite his frustration with Florida fans among the reasons he left the school for a chance to coach in the NFL. A 10-2 regular season that ended with a No. 3 final ranking in the 2001 polls was designated as a failure to many in Gator Nation.
“We finished third in the nation that year and didn’t win anything,” Spurrier said. “That Tennessee loss was so crucial, because I really thought we had a team that could go all the way. Losing that game hurt a lot. I don’t know if you ever completely get over a loss like that.”
Judging by his vivid recollections and comments on the game, it’s doubtful Spurrier ever moves on from his final home game as Florida head coach.