Steve Spurrier vs. Alabama: An all-time great rivalry
Few coaches, players or teams have ever given Alabama trouble on a regular basis. In fact, you can probably count them on one hand.
But you’d better mention Steve Spurrier first.
The Ol’ Ball Coach resigned from his post at South Carolina on Tuesday morning before shutting down any questions about whether he’d be a head coach somewhere else.
“I doubt it,” he answered.
Spurrier, 70, has not faced Alabama in more than five years, but you could hear a collective sigh of relief from Tuscaloosa when he finally handed the reins over.
That’s because Spurrier is a Crimson Tide killer.
He cemented that reputation soon after taking over as Florida’s coach in 1990. Gene Stallings was likewise installed at Alabama that season, and the two battled in four out of five SEC Championship Games from 1992 to 1996.
Spurrier won three, and finished 5-1 against Stallings before the Hall of Fame coach retired in 1996.
Stallings’ final SEC game was a 45-30 loss to Spurrier’s Florida squad. The gunnin’ Gators put up more than 400 passing yards en route to a Sugar Bowl berth and the school’s first national championship.
In other words: Stallings’ final stand doubled as the high point of Spurrier’s Florida career. Fitting.
Oddly enough, Spurrier does not have a winning record against ‘Bama.
If you count all of the games he had against the Tide — as quarterback, assistant coach and head coach — he tallied seven wins against eight losses.
But the big ones tended to go his way. Here are the highlights.
1964 — (No. 3) Alabama 17, (No. 9) Florida 14
Before he was an All-American or a Heisman Trophy winner, Spurrier struggled against ‘Bama as a sophomore. Florida was 4-0 entering game, and Tide quarterback Joe Namath was injured, but replacement Steve Sloan did enough to beat Spurrier. Alabama hit the 21-yard game-winning field goal with three minutes left.
1990 — (No. 24) Florida 17, Alabama 13
After going 0-3 against ‘Bama as a quarterback and assistant coach, Spurrier finally collected his first win over the Tide. This was also his first SEC game as head coach. The Gators climbed as high as No. 6 that season, while Alabama blew a non-conference game to Brett Favre and Southern Mississippi, falling completely out of the national picture.
1991 — (No. 6) Florida 35, (No. 16) Alabama 0
Before a 2015 loss to Ole Miss, Alabama had not lost its SEC opener since this ’91 shellacking. Florida rose to No. 3 that year before losing the Sugar Bowl to Lou Holtz and Notre Dame. Thirteen years later, Holtz’s departure from South Carolina opened the door for Spurrier to take over in Columbia.
1992 — (No. 2) Alabama 28, (No. 12) Florida 21
Alabama outlasted the Gators in a battle between the league’s best defense and best offense. Florida tied the inaugural SEC Championship Game, 21-21, with 8:09 left when Errict Rhett found the end zone from one yard out. But Tide defensive back Antonio Langham returned an interception for the game-winning 27-yard touchdown. Alabama would go on to win its first national championship since 1979.
1994 — (No. 6) Florida 24, (No. 3) Alabama 23
The SEC Championship Game switched from Birmingham to Atlanta in ’94, but still featured Alabama vs. Florida for the third straight year. One week after a legendary 31-31 tie with Florida State, Danny Wuerfell and the Gators rallied for a late touchdown pass to crush Alabama’s national title hopes.
1996 — (No. 4) Florida 45, (No. 11) Alabama 30
As much as Spurrier was a thorn in Alabama’s side, Florida State was an even bigger annual pain for the Ol’ Ball Coach. Florida had been No. 1 for eight straight weeks before falling to the Seminoles in late November. The loss appeared to knock the Gators out of the national championship race, but they quickly re-entered by whipping Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
Spurrier’s offensive juggernaut featured Wuerfell (401 yards for six touchdowns) and Reidel Anthony (11 catches for 171 yards and three scores). The win over ‘Bama earned Florida a rematch with FSU in Sugar Bowl, and the Gators finally broke through with a 52-20 and their first-ever national title.
1999 — (No. 21) Alabama 40, (No. 3) Florida 39
Alabama claimed a victory over Spurrier for the first time in seven years. A thrilling, back-and-forth contest ended in overtime, where ‘Bama back Shaun Alexander raced for a 25-yard touchdown run on Alabama’s first play. Kicker Chris Kemp made the second of two extra-point attempts (Florida was offsides on his initial miss), winning the game after Florida’s Jeff Chandler had missed one of his own.
1999 — (No. 7) Alabama 34, (No. 5) Florida 7
It was only fitting that these two would rematch after playing the game of the year in October. There was little drama in the SEC Championship Game, though, as Mike DuBose’s squad ran through the Gators.
2005 — Alabama 37, South Carolina 14
Spurrier’s return to the SEC was memorable for several reasons, but this big loss to Alabama was not one of them. The coach got off to a rough start in Columbia before picking up his first conference win at Kentucky, and led the Gamecocks to five straight SEC wins. The Associated Press rewarded Spurrier with its Coach of the Year award.
2010 — (No. 19) South Carolina 35, (No. 1) Alabama 21
The Ol’ Ball Coach’s final meeting with the Tide put everything in its right place. Spurrier again played the tormentor by damaging the Tide’s hopes for a second-straight national championship. Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery were all outstanding in what was perhaps South Carolina’s greatest win of all-time.
Spurrier’s final word: “I said ‘Fellas, if fate means for us to win this game Saturday then let’s give it a chance. Let’s give fate a chance to happen.'”