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College football

Rivalry remembered

By Times staff writers
Published November 25, 2003

It is the cornerstone of college football, rivalries that span decades and conjure up memories long after the final seconds tick off the clock.

The outcomes carry beautiful memories for some and haunt others for a lifetime.

Ask any player, fan or coach from Florida State or Florida and they most likely will instantly recall a play, a moment, a second in time that defined the intrastate rivalry between these storied programs.

"Florida State, Miami, bigger rivals like that, those games have a different feeling to them," Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said. "They have a bowl-type feeling, a championship type feeling to them. Those are the big games that you come to a university like this for."

No. 11 Florida and No. 9 Florida State play for the 48th time Saturday in one of the nation's most fierce rivalries. There are no national championship implications this year, but that hasn't lessned the intensity surrounding the game for the players and fans.

Here, some former Gators and Seminoles recall their best and worst memories of years past.

T.K. WETHERELL: FSU receiver, defensive back (1965-67)

FAVORITE MEMORY: In 1967, down 21-16, the Gators had fourth down at the FSU 26. Quarterback Larry Rentz threw for Jim Yarbrough at the 5 ... "It was the last play I ever played as an FSU player, and I was able to break up that final pass to win the game. That's as good a memory as I ever had against the Gators." It was FSU's first win in Gainesville.

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: In 1965, Wetherell seemingly was poised to deliver a game-changing play. The Gators had taken a 23-17 lead on a Steve Spurrier 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Casey in the waning seconds. But with FSU looking to answer, quarterback Ed Pritchett threw for Wetherell. "It went right between my hands; all I had to do was close my hands," Wetherell said. "I don't know if I would have scored, but I would have gotten down there pretty close." Instead, Allen Trammell intercepted and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds left.

PREDICTION: FSU 27-24. "The difference is FSU's running game and short passing keeping them off the field; and I don't think (QB Chris) Leak's seen the speed FSU brings."

KENYATTA WALKER: UF offensive lineman (1998-2000)

FAVORITE MEMORY: "You know, I never beat them, I always lost so I didn't have too much fun. But just the intensity of the rivalry, the fans and the excitement in it. It was always a fun, exciting game, probably one of the most intense games I played in. Just the fun of it all. It's the top (rival). Usually when we played Florida State it was very big. If we beat them we were going to be national championship contenders, so it was always a big game."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: "I was in that group that never beat Florida State. There were always some good, close games, but they always found a way to win at the end."

PREDICTION: "I think Florida's got a chance. I think this is one of the times they do have a good chance this year. It'll be a close game. Florida by three. Somebody is going to throw an interception, late. Special teams will be a big thing in it. It will be one of those type games."

PETER TOM WILLIS: FSU quarterback (1986, 88-89)

FAVORITE MEMORY: As a senior, Willis and receiver Terry Anthony hooked up on a 62-yard touchdown in the first quarter. "We ran a square-in that Terry turned into a post," he said. "I remember telling my guys in the huddle, "If (you) give me time to throw this, it'll be a touchdown.' Sure enough, they did a good job and I was able to step up in the pocket." Willis finished 20-of-32 for 329 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles won 24-17 in Gainesville.

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: As a redshirt freshman watching from the sideline in 1986, Willis and teammates expected to celebrate. But with 3:50 left, UF quarterback Kerwin Bell hit Ricky Nattiel for an 18-yard touchdown to eke out a 17-13 win. "We kind of dominated the game and then Kerwin Bell caught us in a busted coverage," Willis said. "We had lost five in a row to them and we really wanted to win that football game and they kind of stole it at the end."

PREDICTION: Tossup. "What you're looking at is a freshman quarterback from Florida who's playing very consistent and getting better every game and we have a quarterback who's very talented and very inconsistent. If he will play a little more consistent, I think we should win."

ED CHESTER: UF defensive tackle (1995-98)

FAVORITE MEMORY: "It's a tossup between winning the national championship (a 52-20 win over FSU) and my junior year when we beat them at home (32-29 in Gainesville). Dwayne Thomas got an interception at the end of the game to seal the win. I know we won a national championship, but that game was at home and it was to send the seniors out on top. That was important to us."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: "Losing to them in 1996 (24-21) in Tallahassee. It was so disappointing because we could have gone undefeated (UF finished 12-1). That's a game we felt we gave away. We had a lot of injuries going into that game and we just folded instead of competing like we should have."

PREDICTION: "That's a given, Florida. They've got a bunch of young guys that have figured out they are good and they can play with anybody. Both teams have had their problems this year, but it seems like Florida has straightened theirs out. It'll definitely be close. These games usually are hard-fought games."

KEZ MCCORVEY: FSU receiver (1991-94)

FAVORITE MEMORY: In 1994, the Gators led 31-3 in the fourth before the Seminoles rallied for a tie at 31, the "Choke at Doak." "Before the game, we never thought about Florida being able to beat us. It was a foregone conclusion we would beat Florida and Steve Spurrier would give the game to us. But they were dominating us. We kept pushing and never gave up and Florida self-destructed." McCorvey had nine catches for 127 yards. "I noticed the defensive linemen were tired; their tongues were hanging out from our no-huddle. We just kept making plays on them."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: The 1991 regular-season finale came two weeks after the Wide Right I loss to Miami, which ended an unbeaten season and the team's national championship hopes. "We were depleted by injuries on the offensive line, but we were a little emotionally drained," McCorvey said. Though he had six catches for 89 yards, the Seminoles offense struggled. The Gators hung on for a 14-9 win. "It was a game we should have won."

PREDICTION: FSU, maybe. "We have the better team, but it all depends on which one comes out. Sometimes we play great and sometimes . . ."

TERRY DEAN: UF quarterback (1991-94)

FAVORITE MEMORY: Nov.27, 1993: "It was my junior year, playing at Florida and rallying our team, throwing a touchdown pass to Jack Jackson. I just remember that after that touchdown - with about six minutes to go - it was the loudest I've ever heard any noise in my life. The stadium just erupted. We drew within 27-21. The next series, (FSU quarterback) Charlie Ward hit Warrick Dunn going down the sideline (for a 79-yard touchdown) and the game was over."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: Nov. 18, 1992: "I got in as a mop-up when we were getting killed 45-24 at Florida State. We had a tight end named Charlie Dean (6-3, 244). He lined up to block (6-2, 271-pound linebacker) Sterling Palmer. They were kind of jawing at each other and I remember looking at Charlie, and he looked like a toddler compared with Sterling Palmer. He was the most physically imposing human being and he hit me hard. A lot."

PREDICTION: "For me, it all hinges on Chris Rix. If he plays his normal big bad game, Florida wins. If he steps up and plays the way he can, Florida State will win. I like Florida 24-21."

GREG SPIRES: FSU defensive end (1994-97)

FAVORITE MEMORY: "When we (played) them at our home and they were up like 20-something (UF led 31-3 in the fourth). It was one of the biggest comebacks ever in our history. We came back (for a tie at 31). . . . The locker room was unbelievable. We were so happy; the fans ran on the field. It was one of those things where it doesn't usually happen like that again twice in your career."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: "Losing to them in the national championship game in the Sugar Bowl (1997). They beat us bad. They scored a lot of points on us and we beat them a couple of games prior to that. At that time, we did think we were the better team, but they showed us they were the better team that day."

PREDICTION: "This is a good game because Florida has gotten better as the season has gone on, but FSU has a ... good defensive front. So it'll be close. I can't call it. I want FSU to win, of course, but no predictions. But it'll be close."

JOHN REAVES: UF quarterback (1969-71)

FAVORITE MEMORY: "My senior year ... we played FSU at Florida Field, we were 0-5 and FSU was 5-0 and we beat them 17-15. It was interesting for me on a personal note. I was a backup holder on the team and the regular holder had bobbled a couple of field-goal attempt snaps early in the game that could've given us a better lead. So when we were going for what turned out to be the winning field goal (with 9:19 to play) Coach (Doug) Dickey said, "John, you go in and hold.' It's the only time I ever held in my college career and Richard Franco kicked the winner."

BIGGEST NIGHTMARE: "We were lucky enough to beat Florida State the three years I was there, so there are no downers for me."

PREDICTION: "I'd love to say Florida's going to win. But Florida State's pretty loaded. They've run into a couple of great offensive teams the last two weeks, Clemson and N.C. State, that kind of have their number. I don't think we're as good on offense as those two teams are. I don't know if we'll be able to stop them on defense. So I'm not feeling real great about our chances, although I'm holding out hope."

- Compiled by Antonya English, Brian Landman and Bruce Lowitt.

[Last modified November 25, 2003, 02:06:38]


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