Ten years ago, the Florida-Georgia game ceased to be known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
While plenty of fans still refer to the rivalry as such, the universities eschewed acknowledgement of that phrase due to the image it conjures up (a bunch of drunk people stumbling around an NFL parking lot; which is, admittedly, pretty accurate).
From Mark Long of the AP:
City and school officials have been upset with the nickname for years. In 1984, fans rushed the field, tore down goal posts and threatened to throw pieces off the top of the Gator Bowl. Police arrested 65 people, and school officials started talking about moving the game to campus facilities to avoid similar problems.
The 2006 game should be remembered as more than the end of an nickname, though; it’s responsible for changing the course of SEC history.
- Florida had been 6-0 and ranked No. 2 before losing at No. 11 Auburn the week before its Georgia matchup. That result left the SEC without a single undefeated team.
- Urban Meyer was in his second year as Florida’s coach. Chris Leak was the senior starting quarterback with more than 10,000 career passing yards entering the game. Tim Tebow was a true freshman with six total touchdowns to his name.
- Georgia had reached No. 9 earlier in the year, but lost two straight home games — vs. No. 13 Tennessee and unranked Vanderbilt — to drop out of the polls before sneaking out a three-point victory against Mississippi the week before the Cocktail Party.
- Mark Richt was in his sixth season as Georgia’s coach and coming off the second SEC title of his career. True freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford had attempted 125 career passes, with three going for touchdowns and seven getting picked off.
- Florida got out to a 21-0 lead. Wide receiver Andre Caldwell ran in a 12-yard touchdown and then caught a 40-yard score from Leak. Georgia running back Kregg Lumpkin later fumbled at his own 8-yard line, and Florida defensive lineman Ray McDonald scooped the ball up for a defensive touchdown.
- More than 40 minutes into the game, Stafford finally led a scoring drive; he went 2 of 2 for 33 yards and then ran in a touchdown from 13 yards out.
- Georgia cut the lead to 21-14 after a Tebow fumble deep in Florida territory. Lumpkin redeemed himself with a 9-yard touchdown run, and the Bulldogs had 8:17 left of the clock to tie the score.
- That’s when the Gators defense — which racked up five forced turnovers on the day — dug in. Brandon Siler sacked Stafford on the Dawgs’ next drive, and then the “D” forced two incomplete passes. Georgia punted with 3:51 remaining and never got the ball back as the Gators “O” bled out the clock in eight plays.
- Box-score notables: Stafford completed just 13 of 33 passes for 160 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Leak wasn’t much better, completing 14 of 28 for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Percy Harvin (38 yards on eight carries) and Tebow (36 yards on six carries) were the Gators’ leading rushers. Florida kicker Chris Hetland was 0-for-2 on field goals, which helped Georgia stay in the game.
- Notable post-game quote (via AP): “Thank God for great defense” — Meyer.
- Florida won out and captured the national title, just the SEC’s second in eight seasons. That win began a run of seven straight national titles by SEC teams.
- Georgia could’ve potentially captured the SEC title by winning this game. The Bulldogs were upset by Kentucky the following week (a result that, we can speculate, would’ve been different if UGA had picked up a “W” in the Cocktail Party) and then shocked the conference by blowing out No. 5 Auburn on the road. Wins over two ranked teams — No. 16 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Virginia Tech — to finish the season gave the Dawgs an impressive conclusion, but Richt never won another SEC title.
- Five years before an Alabama-LSU rematch in 2011, we would’ve gotten an Ohio State-Michigan rematch if Georgia had won. Florida broke up Vol. 2 of the “Big Game” (somewhat controversially) when the BCS bumped it ahead of Michigan by a hundredth of a point in its calculations.
- Unrest over the Florida selection led to renewed calls for a playoff system. Would we have our current four-team playoff without Michigan getting slighted by the BCS system in 2006? “We’re beyond the fact of do we need a playoff,” Meyer told the AP that December. “It’s now, can we get one.”
How long ago was that 2006 game? None of the 14 coaches in the league that weekend are still in the SEC. But Florida’s win — and eventual national title — helped the Southeastern Conference build its reputation as a modern powerhouse.
Saturday, No. 14 Florida and unranked Georgia will travel to Jacksonville for the 94th edition of “The Great Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Fans can tune into the game on at 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS).
Let us know in the comments: What’s your favorite Florida-Georgia game, and why?