Almost exactly a decade ago, the Florida-Georgia rivalry experienced one of its most unforgettable plays in a series that dates back to 1915.
On Oct. 27, 2007, the Bulldogs set the tone for the eventual 42-30 win over the Gators when former coach Mark Richt’s team did the infamous “Gator Stomp” celebration after an early touchdown that led to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
After RB Knowshon Moreno leaped into the end zone from 1 yard out to give Georgia a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, almost every Bulldog on the sidelines ran onto the field to celebrate.
This week, Richt spoke to AL.com about the incident. He spoke in great length about it, providing clarity as to his intention.
“Well, what led to it is we got beat really bad by Tennessee, and then the next game we played was Vanderbilt, and we barely won it,” Richt explained. “There was not a lot of enthusiasm, and I was like, ‘We’ve got to create some energy somehow.’ And so when I was a coordinator at Florida State, I used to — every so often, say, hey, ‘when we score, you guys celebrate hard enough — just celebrate hard, and if you don’t celebrate hard enough to get a flag, then you didn’t celebrate hard enough.’
“So whether it’s right or wrong, that was the thinking behind it. And that’s what I told our team, and what I thought they heard was the team that’s on the field, you celebrate, because what happened during the week is we had an open date actually, and so every time they’d score against the scout team, some guy would like try to spike it through the goal post or spin the ball.
“I’m like, ‘You guys don’t get it, this is a team celebration, not an individual celebration.’ I think when I said the whole team needs to celebrate, or when I said the team needs to celebrate, they thought the whole team, and I was really talking about whoever was in the game at the time. So when he scored, they really felt like they had an obligation to go celebrate, and they got at least two penalties. But the goal really was not for the team to come off the bench. The goal was for the guys on the field to just celebrate real hard, and as it turned out, everybody ran out there except for Dannell Ellerbe, and I think he was in the doghouse and he knew not to go out.”
Although the Gators did take a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs clearly had more in the tank in the end, thanks in part to that historic moment early on.
As for this season, Georgia has plenty of reason that it can — at the least — celebrate a trip to the SEC Championship Game in its own backyard soon. The Dawgs are undefeated at 7-0, while every other East team has at least two losses. Meanwhile, Georgia is ranked No. 3 in the country behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Penn State.
Richt, who coached in Athens for 15 years, is now coaching an undefeated 6-0 Miami team that’s ranked No. 8 in the country.
Florida and Georgia kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.