Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Alabama. Alabama. Alabama. It’s always Ala-Damn-Bama! Lots of football fans down here are tired of seeing The Genghis Khan of Southern Football running roughshod. Is this ever going to cease? Can’t fairy tales exist? Florida began playing Alabama over a century ago. Since then, it’s usually been a case of the “Stars Fell on Alabama” – mainly 5-Star players – when it comes to the Crimson Tide, the SEC and Florida Gators. Although once during the reign of the HBC, he held Genghis in check for a spell. They meet Saturday night for the 41st time overall, the 10th time for an SEC championship. Overall, including regular season, the Crimson Tide has won 24 times, the last six in a row. There have been some spectacular moments for the Gators, like the 2008 SEC Championship Game, No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 'Bama. Urban Meyer's national champions beat Nick Saban's Crimson Tide without having one of its biggest offensive weapons, Percy Harvin. A fourth quarter sparked by the passing -- yes, passing -- of pinpoint accurate Tim Tebow. Meyer still calls that 31-20 win one of his finest hours, "maybe the best game i've ever been involved in."
When they next met in 2009, Saban evened the score and many think that was the impetus that inspired Alabama's incredible run for the next decade. Insiders say the loss was so impactful for Saban that for the next 364 days he practiced against the Florida defense and became almost obsessed with the Gators.
Frankly speaking, this is not an ideal season to be scheduling a juggernaut with the alleged greatest coach in college football at the helm. And three world-class offensive players. This would be a good time for Gator fans to tuck and run. Or would it? Dreamers dream of upsets. Question: Is it even possible the Gators will win? This is exactly the kind of ambush that would spawn a legend of mythical proportion. Goliath was favored by 100 million points over David. LSU was only a 23.5-point underdog to the Gators last Saturday night and won. So what’s a mere 17=point margin for Alabama this time?
So now we ask, if we believe in Newton's law, when will pendulum swing back in Florida's favor?
Who could believe such a fairy tale? A few people do that I talked to this week. Good, smart football minds, some of whom have experienced these cataclysmic events in their favor. A good half dozen players and coaches, all with Gator backgrounds or connections, many of whom embrace this SEC Championship Game an opportunity to make a statement for the program -- instead of necessarily fearing a Saturday night massacre. And a few who even still believe in fairy tales.
Among them, Steve Spurrier, who took on the No. 1 Crimson Tide as coach of South Carolina and beat them in 2010. I asked Spurrier if this Gator team could possibly beat Alabama in what looks like the biggest mismatch since – well, since the Nebraska Cornhuskers flattened his Gators at the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, 62-24. “Sure they can,” Spurrier said with a touch of conviction, although certainly not predicting it. “They've got a chance to win the SEC! Give fate a chance.” That’s what he told his South Carolina team in 2010. Coming from a man who won the ACC with a Duke team, you tend to believe it. I thought back to what now seems like century ago when Spurrier was a freshman and not yet eligible at Florida as his coach took a bedraggled Gator squad to Tuscaloosa to face Bear Bryant’s team, which had never lost on home ground. Carrying a paltry 1-1-1 record to Tuscaloosa after almost losing to tiny Richmond at home the week before, Graves’ said “We’ve got no chance against them.” And I was standing there when he said it. The Fairy Tale kicked in as his rag-tag team handed the Bear his first-ever loss at what was then known as only Denny Stadium, 10-6. It was a special moment for a guy named Dick Kirk of Fort Lauderdale who unexpectedly broke loose for the winning touchdown on a 42-yard run. Maybe somebody else in orange and blue will have a special moment Saturday night. All of which brings us around to Kyle Trask, the flesh and blood example of a living, walking, breathing, passing fairy tale. Who by the way, had another important date Saturday, but skippped it -- he was scheduled to receive his Masters in sports management at UF. Would it count as extra credit if he became a Masters in Atlanta instead? Twenty-three games ago, he had not started a game since ninth grade. Before the fourth quarter starts Saturday night he could be putting the final touches on his incredible achievement: Trask needs only 180 more yards to become Florida’s all-time leading passer. Barring an injury or an earthquake, with 3,717 career yards in just two partial seasons, Trask will be passing Rex Grossman at 3,896. Last week he threw his 40th TD pass to eclipse Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel. This is the stuff legends are made of. And maybe this one is still being made, following in the footsteps of the QB whose TD pass record he just broke. I remember the day in Tallahassee that a bruised and battered Wuerffel stood on a chair in the bowels of Doak Campbell Stadium following a bitter defeat at the hands of hated Florida State, hopes dashed for Florida winning a national championship. Not so fast -- Danny Wuerffel wasn’t conceding anything. He may have been the only person in that locker room who believed the Gators still had a shot. And he assured the press he believed that fairy tale was still possible. We fairly snickered. A few weeks later he finished it off, starting with a win over Alabama for the SEC title. Then on to the Sugar Bowl to settle a score with FSU, 52-20. There was a little bit of Wuerffel’s faith in the voice of Kyle Trask this week -- maybe because Danny had phoned Kyle Saturday after having his touchdown pass record broken by the Gator senior quarterback. Like Wuerffel, he was feeling it.
“I think the energy in this building is very, very high,” Trask said. “We earned the right to be in this game from our play all season. We're here now, and we have a chance to win an SEC championship. The rest will take care of itself if we can take care of the business we can.” Nobody in his right mind would pick Florida to win. And yet fate still seems to owe Kyle Trask one for the road. In the perfect happily-ever-after ending, Florida beats Alabama, Trask throws for four more touchdowns, the Gators make the Final Four and advance to the championship game. And the Heisman Trophy goes to Kyle Trask, whose statue would be placed in front of the field named after Steve Spurrier. That just may be a bigger fairy tale than even Walt Disney could conjure up. But go ahead – dream it anyway! Damn that Ala-Damn-Bama!