This Week in Sports History: The ‘Gator Stomp’

The world was a simpler place back in October of 2007. Netflix was slinging DVDs via standard mail, hip-hop sensation Da Baby was still a baby, and a mild-mannered businessman named Donald Trump headlined WWE’s WrestleMania 23. Meanwhile, in the SEC, Nick Saban was struggling through his first year at Alabama, current US Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville was leading a scrappy Auburn squad, and Aaron Hernandez was still known more for his soft hands than his itchy finger.

Entering the Georgia-Florida game that year, the event had evolved into less of a rivalry and more of an excuse to binge drink (and subsequently binge urinate) in public due to lopsided results over the past two decades. The Gators not only held a distinct psychological advantage on the field, but Bulldog boozers in the parking lot also struggled to compete with the cross-eyed Gator faithful who grew up drinking Florida coast fart water.

Although the name was banned several years ago to preserve the moral purity of the world’s most hypocritically lucrative sports organization, the majority of college football fans still refer to the hubbub surrounding the Georgia-Florida game as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”. As the game is played at a ‘neutral site’ in Jacksonville every year, tickets are fairly divvied up 50/50 to each fan base. And since Gainesville is only an hour from Jacksonville but Athens is almost six hours away, that’s perfectly fair and equitable, too.

The 2007 Florida team was coming off a National Championship in ’06 behind Urban Meyer and senior quarterback Chris Leak, and entered the season with high expectations as abstinence-symbol Tebow was set to take the reins of an explosive offensive attack. Against all odds, Gators tight end Riley Cooper had made it through seven weeks without dropping a single “N” bomb in front of any Black teammates. Despite two tough losses to Auburn and LSU, the Gators were still considered the toast of the SEC East entering the Georgia game with a 5-2 record. 

Georgia, on the other hand, stood as a shining example of ‘decent’. After two SEC titles in his first five years leading the Dogs, Mark Richt’s program had become notorious for coming up short in big moments despite always posting a winning record. The glaring weakness for Georgia had been its annual matchup with SEC rival Florida, who won 15 of the last 17 games dating back to the Steve Spurrier era. After losing a heartbreaker to South Carolina and getting demolished by Tennessee, the Bulldogs needed a last-second field goal to squeak by your grandfather’s Vanderbilt team. This was not your grandfather’s Florida team.

The Georgia roster was loaded with talent, but it wasn’t translating to success on the field. Richt, a devout Christian, knew he couldn’t rely on the power of prayer for this one since Florida had its own Praymaker on the sidelines in Tebow.

Desperate to motivate his talented but uninspired squad, led by future #1 draft pick Matthew Stafford and watergirl Katharyn Richt, Coach Mark deployed a celebratory tactic he hoped would flip the script and energize his underachieving lineup.

Before the game, Richt told his offense that if they didn’t draw a celebration penalty after their first touchdown versus the Gators, the whole team would have punishment runs every morning for a week. But when Knowshon Moreno catapulted himself over a pile of wet bacon to give Georgia an early 7-0 lead, it was more than just the offense joining the fun.

As soon as the ball crossed the goal line, waves of Georgia players swarmed onto the field like the birds from Birds and started dancing in the end zone. Offensive lineman Trinton Sturdivant was especially demonstrative, pulling off the move your uncle Reggie does after seven birthday margs. When the smoke cleared, the field was covered with more yellow cloth than if the Dipshit Rapture happened during a Steelers game.

The Gators would answer quickly after an adorable little speech from Tebow to make it 7-7, but the momentum stayed on Georgia’s side and the Bulldogs never took their meaty paw off the gas pedal en route to a 42-30 whoopin’. The UGA defense technically held Tebow to -15 yards rushing since college statisticians think sacks should count as goddamn negative rushing yards. Either way, Tebow was going backward more often than forward, which makes sense considering how he was raised. 

Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes admitted afterwards that the Bulldog’s celebration set the tone for the game and let the reigning champions know that “these guys aren’t scared of us”. Georgia headed back to Athens with a newfound swagger that would stick with them throughout the season, and footage of the ‘Gator Stomp’ became what historians have called ‘the first TikTok’ and ‘the worst Harlem Shake video ever’.

After the controversial stunt was met with a mixed reception nationwide, Richt penned an apology letter to the SEC to express his remorse for initiating a “disrespectful” celebration that “showed poor sportsmanship”, explaining that he had lost his WWJD bracelet earlier in the week and his judgement was understandably skewed. 

Whether or not the celebration factored into the final outcome, the series turned back into a rivalry after 2007. UGA and Florida are 6-6 against one another since then, and the Cocktail Party remains one of the grandest events this side of the Mason Crosby line.

2020 will mark the first time since 1991 that the teams won’t meet on Halloween weekend, and COVID-19 precautions will prohibit all tailgating in stadium parking lots prior to the game. The City of Jacksonville has announced there will be a limited capacity crowd, but Gators coach Dan Mullen, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, said he wants to see TIAA Bank Field “crawling with pussy” on November 7th when his #10 Gators take on the #5 Bulldogs.

Categories: Footballs

Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: