Florida is not as dominant right now as it has been in recent seasons, but it was up there among the national elite many times when the team I was covering, whether Ole Miss or MSU, got the better of the Gators.
Florida was ranked No. 3 in 2000 when MSU off-set the Gators’ 494 passing yards with 351 rushing yards and won 47-35.
Getting into the Way Back Machine now, but I was a Meridian Star employee in 1992 when I covered a Thursday night MSU win over Florida, 30-6, in which the Bulldogs limited Gators running back Errict Rhett.
Afterward, as players were walking off the field and media headed to the interview room I walked alongside Rhett and asked him what State had done to have so much defensive success. He used an expletive, in a polite sort of way, to explain that he really had no idea.
Later, on the Ole Miss beat, I watched Eli Manning pass for a mere 154 yards but lead the Rebles to a 17-14 win over then-No. 4 Florida. Matt Grier had a couple of picks, one returned for a touchdown.
The Ole Miss defense knocked around Rex Grossman that day.
The Rebels followed up that game with a 20-17 win in Gainesville the next season.
I recall that after State defeated Florida in 2000 it was absolutely destroyed in the Swamp the following season, 52-0, when the Gators were ranked No. 2. I asked a Florida player if he was concerned that the Bulldogs might score late against the reserves and spoil the shutout. His response was, “We could have played for two weeks, and they wouldn’t have scored.”
After the 2003 win, Ole Miss didn’t see the Gators again until 2007, a 30-24 Ole Miss loss in Oxford.
Then came the 2008 trip, the 31-30 Ole Miss win, the Kentrell Lockett blocked PAT, the big game from Dext McCluster, Jevan Snead’s deep ball to Shay Hodge and finally the fourth-down stop of Tim Tebow to end the day for the eventual national champs.
I’ve never heard a quieter stadium. Unexpected wins are always fun to cover, because players and coaches are so excited – and talkative – afterward.