Heading into the 2005 Florida game, I think most ’Bama fans were pretty confident. However, that is nothing new. ’Bama fans always think we should beat anybody and everybody every time no matter unrealistic the circumstances.
Is that cocky? Probably. Is it arrogant? Definitely.
But I doubt anyone would have predicted what happened at Bryant Denney that Saturday 15 years ago against the Gators though.
Sure, any time Alabama and Florida meet it is a pretty big deal. It has been that way since Steve Spurrier got his first big UF win against in Tuscaloosa in 1990. Alhtough the two teams don’t play much in the regular season, the SEC title game was the Tide/Gator invitational for most of the 1990s.
This particular game, though, had a lot more on the line. It was Urban Meyer’s first SEC road test and the stadium was filled with five star blue chippers (and the idiots that track their every movement—-like me). A national CBS audience was watching and, finally, this was Mike Shula’s first “no excuses” big game. ’Bama had no injuries or suspensions that could be used as a crutch for the coach this time should the Tide lose.
Fortunately for me, I had seats very near the gaggle of recruits I spoke about earlier. In fact, Tim Tebow himself sat about 10 feet away from me.
The great thing about sitting near the soon-to-be legend is the Alabama co-eds were hot on his tail. Twenty-something-year-old women lined up behind Tebow like freight cars behind Thomas the Train.
So the game actually kicks off and ’Bama has two brilliant defensive stands (Tyrone Prothro had fumbled the first punt and given Florida another opportunity). Then there is a commercial break so everyone milled about the overheated stadium wondering what crappy play Alabama had called for our first possession. My friend and I had narrowed it down to these possibilities:
• Crappy receiver screen
• Crappy fullback up the middle play
• Fumble-rooski (without the rooski)
The offense lines up… See, told ya… Hand off to… Wait… Quarterback Brodie Croyle’s still got the ball… Good Lord, he’s throwing deep… There’s a man out there… Our man… And our receiver is still running upright. He caught it; he’s gone! Did ’Bama just do that? ’Bama never does that!
That play set the tone for quite possibly the greatest first half of football in decades at Alabama and just when Florida finally got on the board with a field goal, Brodie hit receiver Keith Brown on a slant and the Tide scores again. The 24-3 halftime lead was surprising to everyone including, most notably, Urban Meyer.
His halftime speech was like listening to a Southern toddler try to read Sanskrit. He babbled for 10 seconds then said something about not playing like Gators — whatever the heck that means.
Florida turned out not to be the powerhouse it was predicted to be preseason, but I think Shula made a mark on recruits, the national media and in the minds of ‘Bama fans even if only for a little while. In fact, take out Prothro’s famous gruesome injury later in that game and who knows how the season may have ended up.