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20 Most Memorable Games in the SEC Expansion Era
Last week we looked at the 20 most memorable players of the SEC Expansion Era http://dixiefriedsports.com/Most_Memorable_Players.html. This week we celebrate the 20th year of SEC Expansion with a look at the 20 most memorable games.
20. 9/17/94 Auburn 30 LSU 26- It's hard to believe, but there was a time in the early 90s that LSU was really struggling as a football program. LSU entered the 94 season with 5 straight losing seasons, but after player Texas A&M close in week 1 and whipping Mississippi State in week 2 there was hope in Baton Rouge. Auburn entered the game on a 13 game win streak and was ranked #11 nationally. Early in the game there was little excitement, but the underdog LSU team did lead at halftime 10-9. In the 2nd half things got crazy as LSU went up 23-9 going into the 4th quarter and Jordan Hare Stadium was in shock. Then, LSU suffered its ugliest quarter in school history. QB Jamie Howard was intercepted on 2 straight possessions and both Interceptions were returned for TDs making the score 23-23. Howard and the Tigers were able to regain their composure and added a FG to go up 26-23. After Auburn went 3 and out on their next series it looked like LSU had pulled off the upset, but once again Howard was intercepted and Brian Robinson returned the pick for another defensive touchdown to put Auburn up 30-26. LSU was able to drive down to the Auburn 25 on their last possession, but once again Howard threw an interception and Auburn held on for a 30-26 win. The game ended with 11 combined turnovers and Auburn was able to score 30 points without an offensive touchdown.
19. 10/8/01 Georgia 26 Tennessee 24- Not since Georgia National Championship 1980 season had the Dogs won at Neyland Stadium and with 44 seconds left and Tennessee up 24-20 it appeared as if Georgia would have another loss on Rocky Top. On its last drive of the game QB David Greene led Georgia on a 59 yard drive, completing 4 of 5 passes and a 6 yard TD pass to FB Verron Hayes for the win. This final play led Georgia Play By Play Man Larry Munson to say "We just stepped on their face with a hob-nailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!"
18. 10/27/07 Georgia 42 Florida 30- Mark Richt was only 1-5 against Florida entering this game and felt that his Bulldogs needed an emotional lift. Richt told his players that if they didn't get a celebration penalty on their first score then everyone would be doing early morning runs. On Georgia's first score, all 70 players ran on the field and celebrated in the endzone in a wild scene. The show of emotion worked as Georgia became only the 5th team in 8 years to score 40+ on the Gators.
17. 10/11/97 LSU 28 Florida 21- Florida entered this game as the defending national champs and had won an amazing 25 consecutive SEC games. LSU had been down for most of the 90s, but entered this game 5-1 and the LSU fans were excited for the biggest game in Baton Rouge in a decade. LSU took an early 14-0 lead, but Florida would rally back to tie the game at 14 early in the second half. The two teams entered the 4th quarter tied at 14, but LSU scored twice in the first 3:20 seconds of the 4th to take a 28-14 lead. The Gators did score 1 more time in the 4th, but LSU was able to hang on and give Florida its first SEC loss since 1994.
16. 9/27/08 Ole Miss 31 Florida 30- The game was between a 2-2 and unranked Ole Miss team and the #4 Florida Gators. What will be remembered most about the game itself will be Tim Tebow's failed 4th and 2 conversion with 40 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Rebels. What might be remembered the most this day was Tebow's speech afterwards. After the game Tebow gave an emotional post game press conference where he apologized for the loss and his play. He then promised everyone that he would play harder than any player before him and push his team as hard as any team has been pushed. Florida ended up winning the National Championship for the 2nd time in 3 years.
15. 10/4/08 Vanderbilt 14 Auburn 13- This game is memorable because for the first time in nearly 100 years Vanderbilt Football was the center of the College Football Universe. ESPN's College Game Day came to Nashville because the Commodores were undefeated and ranked 19th. Mackenzie Adams, filling in for the injured starting QB Chris Nickson tossed the game winning TD in the 3rd quarter and the Commodore defense was able to hold Auburn scoreless the rest of the way. It was VU's first 5-0 start since 1943.
14. 11/12/05 LSU 16 Alabama 13- #5 LSU was 7-1 and #4 Alabama was 9-0. The winner was certain to be the SEC West Champion and Alabama still held out hopes of becoming a National Champion. The game was a defensive struggle with the score at the end of regulation being 10-10 as both teams struggled to produce 250 yards of total offense. In overtime Alabama scored first with a 34 yard FG. LSU then took over and an 11 yard TD pass from JaMarcus Russell to Dwayne Bowe ended Alabama's undefeated season.
13. 11/3/01 Arkansas 58 Ole Miss 56- The first seven overtime game in College Football History was played in Oxford, MS and featured two of the most exciting players in the last decade, Matt Jones and Eli Manning. There wasn't much excitement in regulation as the score was 17-17 going into the first overtime. Eli Manning ended up passing for 312 yards in the game, but this was a game where Matt Jones came on the scene in the SEC. Jones came in relief of Zak Clark and the freshman ran for 110 yards and was clutch in each this 7 OT thriller. The Hogs would later lose a 6 OT game to Tennessee and win a 7 OT game against Kentucky.
12. 10/16/93 Alabama 17 Tennessee 17- Alabama entered the 3rd Weekend in October as the defending national champs and had a 28 game win streak. Tennessee was no slouch as the Vols entered the game ranked #10 nationally. Late in the game it appeared that UT might come away with the upset win, but Jay Barker led the Tide down the field with a late score. On the 2 point conversion play, David Palmer took a sweep to the right to tie the game 17-17. This ended Alabama's 28 game win streak and their national championship hopes. It was also the first time Alabama failed to win a SEC game since early in the 1991 season.
11. 9/19/98 Tennessee 20 Florida 17- Despite winning the SEC East the year prior, Tennessee and Phil Fulmer were owned by Steve Spurrier. The Vols had lost 5 straight to Florida and few gave them a chance in this contest. The game was 17-17 entering the 4th quarter and neither team was able to do much in the final minutes of regulation. The game went to overtime tied 17-17. Tennessee was unable to score a TD, but a Jeff Hall field goal put the Vols up 20-17. Florida took got its chance at a game tying field goal in overtime, but the kick by Collins Cooper sailed wide right and the Vols won 20-17 at Neyland Stadium. The win was the first win over Florida for Phil Fulmer.
10. 12/8/01 LSU 31 Tennessee 20- Tennessee had just beaten Florida in The Swamp a week earlier and with a win would've been playing for the National Championship. LSU was coming off a 8-3 regular season and was a big underdog in their first SEC Championship Game appearance. Rohan Davey was injured for LSU on their second possession and the Tigers had to play back up Matt Mauck. Mauck, ran for two touchdowns, including a 13 yard game clincher in the 4th quarter. This is considered by most to be the biggest upset in the history of the SEC Championship Game.
9. 10/6/07 LSU 28 Florida 24- This game featured the defending national champ Gators and the #1 LSU Tigers. It will be remembered for Les Miles' gutsy play calling. Early in the game backup QB Ryan Perilloux would score on a 4th and goal from the 1, this was Miles' first crucial call. Tim Tebow and Florida actually led in the 4th quarter 24-14, but LSU would rally back. With 10:15 remaining QB Matt Flynn hit Demetrius Byrd for a TD. With 7 minutes left LSU passed up a punt and went for it on 4th and 2 in their own territory and got the first down by the length of the football. Then on 4th and 1 from the 6 LSU passed up a chance at FG that would've tied the game. LSU got the first down, scored and took a 28-24 lead. A Tim Tebow pass on the last play of the game fell incomplete and LSU came away with the win and eventually the National Championship.
8. 9/22/01 South Carolina 16 Mississippi State 14- This game was an ESPN Thursday Night game between two top 25 teams, but more importantly this was the first college football game after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Before the game a giant American Flag was held by members of both teams and a small U-S-C, U-S-C chant that started in the South Carolina section became a very loud and vocal U-S-A, U-S-A, chant by all fans. Very few MSU fans brought their cowbells into the stadium for this game due to security fears. This game didn't decide a SEC Championship and MSU's season would end up collapsing after this loss, but for 3 hours College Football Fans were able to have some fun during a scary time in American History.
7. 12/4/94 Florida 24 Alabama 23- For the 3rd straight year the SEC Championship game was between Alabama and Florida. The Crimson Tide entered the game 11-0 with National Championship hopes, while the Gators were 9-1-1 and ranked #6. Florida went into halftime with a 17-10 lead, but the early part of the second half was dominated by Alabama and the Tide took a 23-17 lead. Then with just over 5:00 left Danny Wuerffel found Chris Doering for the game winning TD as Florida won the first ever SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
6. 11/27/07 Arkansas 50 LSU 48- Earlier in the week the coach of the #1 LSU Tigers, Les Miles, called Arkansas R-Kansas. This was an obvious mistake. Darren McFadden rushed for 206 yards and Peyton Hillis scored 4 touchdowns as the Hogs pulled off the upset in Baton Rouge. It appeared as if this game would knock LSU out of the national championship picture, but a few upsets the next week put LSU back in the title game which they won.
5. 11/14/98 Tennessee 28 Arkansas 24- Arkansas was undefeated and ranked #10, Tennessee was undefeated and ranked #1. This was the latest two SEC teams had met undefeated in over 30 years. The Vols were still favored with the game being in Knoxville, but the Hogs were hungry under first year coach Houston Nutt. Early on it looked as if Arkansas was certainly the better team as the Hogs took a 21-3 lead in the first half. Tennessee would battle back though and cut the lead to 24-20. Then with 6 minutes left the Vols blocked an Arkansas FG attempt and returned it to the Hogs 28 yard line. UT failed to score, but a punt pinned Arkansas back to their own 1 yard line. Arkansas was forced to punt after a 3 and out, but on the punt the ball went over the punter's head and he kicked it out of bounds for a safety. With 2:56 left UT was only down 24-22 and was getting the ball back needing a FG to win. UT was unable to move the ball though and Arkansas took over with under 2 minutes to play. The Hogs only needed to get 1 first down and the game would be over. Arkansas got little yardage on first down and UT used its 2nd TO. Then on 2nd down Clint Stoerner lost his balance and then stumbled and fumbled. Tennessee recovered the fumble and a few plays later Travis Henry would score the game winning TD. Tennessee went on to win the first BCS National Championship and ended the year undefeated.
4.12/1/01 Tennessee 34 Florida 32- This game was moved back to December 1 due to the September 11th Terrorists attacks. It featured #4 Tennessee and #2 Florida, both teams were 9-1. The Vols had not won in The Swamp since 1971, so Florida was the favorite in this late season clash of titans. The Vols dominated Florida on the ground rushing for 242 yards to Florida's 36. Late in the game Tennessee took a 34-26 lead, forcing Florida to go for 2 if they scored again. Rex Grossman did lead the Gators on a touchdown drive with just over 1 minute left, but a 2 point conversion pass to Jabar Gaffney failed and Tennessee won the SEC East Crown.
3. 11/26/10 Auburn 28 Alabama 27- Auburn entered the game undefeated and only needing 2 more wins to play for the National Championship. The defending national champs already had 2 losses, but was looking for their 3rd straight Iron Bowl win. Alabama jumped out to an early 24-0 lead and it appeared as if Auburn's NC hopes were over. In the final minutes of the first half it appeared as if Alabama was going to run away with things with the ball inside of the Auburn 10, but a Nick Fairley forced fumble stopped the Tide and turned the momentum in favor of Auburn. The 2nd half was all Auburn as the Tigers out scored Bama 21-3 and won the game 28-27 to finish the regular season 12-0
2. 11/9/02 LSU 33 Kentucky 30- LSU entered this game in Lexington, KY as the defending SEC Champs while Kentucky was an obvious underdog. For most of the game LSU was in control and took a 24-14 lead early in the 4th quarter. Kentucky then would go on a 13-3 run to take tie the game 27-27. With 11 seconds left on the clock Kentucky would kick a 29 yard field goal and it looked like the Cats had pulled off a classic upset. LSU was pinned back to their own 9 yard line after the kickoff. Fans started to gather on the field and were ready to tear down the goal posts. With 2 seconds left LSU was able to complete a 17 yard pass to the 26 yard line and called time out. More UK fans made their way to the field, ready to tear down the goal posts. On the last play of the game Marcus Randall dropped back to his own 18 yard line and launched a pass to the UK 25 yard line where it was tipped in the air and caught by Devery Henderson who ran 15 yards into the UK endzone for the winning score. While the ball was in the air UK coach Guy Morris was given a Gatorade Bath and Wildcat Fans tore down the goalposts on the opposite end of the field. The game is known by most as "The Bluegrass Miracle"
1. 12/5/92 Alabama 28 Florida 21- This was the inaugural SEC Championship Game and was played at Birmingham's Legion Field. The game involved the 11-0 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 9-3 Florida Gators. The game started with Florida taking an early 7-0 lead on its opening offensive drive of the game, but then the Crimson Tide would take over. Alabama dominated the next 2 and a half quarters and built a 21-7 lead midway through the 3rd quarter. The Gators answered back with two consecutive scores and with just under 4 minutes left in the game the Gators had the ball at their own 21 yard line with a chance to win. Unfortunately for Florida, Shane Matthews was intercepted by Antonio Langham who ran 27 yards for the game winning TD. Florida did have one more chance to tie the game, but Matthews was once again intercepted and Alabama went on to win its 20th SEC Championship