1. Archive

A SWEET 1 // At long last, Spurrier's Gators don't leave room for doubt

So this is what it feels like when the dreams too rich to dream come true.

The Gators poured from the bench, full of themselves and celebration, not necessarily in that order. They danced, and they gestured, and they wallowed in the pandemonium. The noise poured across the field, and they pumped feet and hands and each other's backs.

And the darnedest thing was this: There still was almost nine minutes left to play.

It was over, and both sides knew it. The Gators had just scored again, and the score was 45-20, and it was all over but counting the ballots.

The world belonged to the Gators. And all you could do was look at them.

This is the moment their fans had dreamed about, all those years before they had the right to dream it. All those years it was a serf in its own conference, what right did it have to think about riches such as this?

This was the game that, despite the crimes of Charley Pell, despite the misdemeanors of Galen Hall, the Gators could not buy. This was the game that, despite the excellence of Emmitt Smith and Jack Youngblood and John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez and Wilber Marshall and Scot Brantley and, yes, Steve Spurrier, it could not win.

These fans had sat and watched, those who could stand it, as FSU danced that wild, spasmodic dance of champions. As Miami did it, four times in all. As Nebraska snuffed out their dreams a year ago. Every year, it was some team. Every year, it was another team.

Finally, it was their turn, and the world could watch. They have waited an eternity for this. Ninety seasons, most of chasing the elusive SEC title. Nineteen coaches, most of them unknown to all but historians. Two dozen bowl games, most of them defeats. Fourth and dumb against Georgia. Lindsay Scott over the middle. Probations. Penalties. Pain.

But just after 11, Big Easy time, the wait finally ended. Florida has a title, and the rest of the country is looking at Gator tail.

Oh, for the longest time, you wondered. The Gators darned near illegally motioned themselves out of this game. In the end, however, they managed to turn this into their type of game rather than FSU's, and that made all the difference.

All the things that had gone wrong in the first meeting had been repaired by the Gators. The special teams that were so horrible were crisp. The defense that could not tackle Warrick Dunn smothered him completely. Ike Hilliard, almost invisible the first game, was superman in this one.

But most important was the protection of Wuerffel. By going so heavily to the shotgun _ a formation Spurrier never had much use for _ Danny Wuerffel had time to throw. And his wide receivers simply were better than the FSU defensive backs.

If the Gators indeed waited the longest to win their title of the state schools, however, they at least won on style points. FSU won its title in confusion, when the field was cleared and Nebraska missed a late field goal. When Miami won its first title, it did so when Nebraska missed on a late two-point conversion. The Gators? They not only won a title, they made their rivals watch the celebration.

Okay, it needs to be said somewhere that there will be a little talk from the other schools with one defeat. That's natural, but it's not rational. Not after the Gators steam-rolled the No.

1 team in the nation like this. Ohio State was ranked behind the Gators coming into the game, and what it did was not as impressive as what the Gators did by beating the Seminoles.

It's odd. In Florida, the tendency is to pretend that the world stops and watches when these two play. That wasn't really true until this game, when these were the last teams standing.

If you are an FSU fan, the shame of it all is that the Seminoles could have beaten any other team in the country Thursday. Ohio State or Arizona State or BYU or anyone else. No one else has these receivers, this quarterback and _ say what you want about him _ this coach. This time, there would be no goal posts to shred, no fans pouring joyously across the field.

Instead, there were only players with empty faces, trying not to pay attention as the players in white shirts and blue pants danced their way into a history that has been forever in coming. Eventually, however, they could not help themselves. They had to look.

The Seminoles, and the rest of the nation. Way up there, aren't they?