Pat Dooley reflects on Steve Spurrier’s dominance over the LSU Tigers

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Steve Spurrier came to Gainesville for the warmth, but the first time he ever faced LSU he was a little chilly.

A hurricane (stop me if you’ve heard this) postponed the game until the end of the season. Her name was Hilda and the game was Dec. 5, 1964.

“It was cold, for us cold, like 40s or 50s. But the guys played well. Coach (Ray) Graves turned us loose on the town that night to celebrate the win that ended the season.”

That game in Spurrier’s sophomore season and started a dominance for Spurrier against the Tigers as a Gator (we won’t talk about his record against LSU at South Carolina).

“We beat them all three times when I played them,” Spurrier said. “And then when I got down here (from Duke) we started beating them.”

Spurrier was a Bayou Bruiser. It was as if he had Zatarain’s sprinkled on his cornflakes and oysters before every meal. Let’s face it, he owned LSU and in the name of George Edmondson, thank goodness he did.

The numbers don’t lie. Florida is 33-31-3 lifetime against LSU. Without Spurrier, the Gators are 19-30-3.

Yikes.

“They weren’t quite top 10 teams, top 25 I guess,” Spurrier said. “But they did rush the field when they beat us in 1997. That’s always a good thing I guess.

“One thing about that game, though, we were down 28-21 and driving to try to tie it. I had taken Doug Johnson out and put Jesse Palmer in and we hit about a 20-yard pass and the ref dropped a flag. He said my foot was on the sideline so that was a 15-yard penalty. That ruined our chance at a last drive. First time I ever got one of those.”

He never forgets.

But let’s talk about the other games because Spurrier was 3-0 as a player and 11-1 as a coach against LSU.

Modern-day records vs. LSU

Modern-day records (remember, modern-day starts when I saw my first game in 1962) of Florida coaches against these Tigers:

Spurrier 11-1

Ray Graves 3-3

Doug Dickey 3-5

Charley Pell 2-3-1

Galen Hall 3-2 (including the last game he coached at Florida before being let go the next day)

Ron Zook 1-2

Urban Meyer 3-3

Will Muschamp 1-3

Jim McElwain 1-2

Dan Mullen 1-2

Spurrier's dominance

Certainly, the level of play improved in Baton Rouge under Nick Saban and Les Miles, but Florida’s record prior to Spurrier was a pedestrian 15-17-2 that included a 4-8-1 record from 1937-1963. No, the Gators didn’t play LSU every season until the league went to divisions in 1992.

And the truth is that the two teams could lose their annual game when Oklahoma and Texas join the league and the schedules change drastically.

But this is about the stranglehold Florida had against LSU under Spurrier.

In his second game against the Tigers, Spurrier’s Gators won 16-0.

“That shows you how good our defense was back then,” Spurrier said.

The next year, Florida escaped with a 28-21 win at home.

“We were just trying to run the clock out and Shane Matthews checked to a hitch pass,” Spurrier said. “It was batted down and I called a pass to try to get a first down and it was incomplete. And then they just went boom, boom, boom and scored and recovered the onside kick so they’re throwing the ball in the end zone at the end of the game. Monty Grow knocked away a pass on a wheel route at the end.

“I told Shane that was the dumbest thing he did in three years at Florida.”

But the most famous of those Spurrier wins came a year after beating LSU 28-10 in 1995. LSU had tried to play keep-away to make the score presentable.

“Their defensive coordinator (Carl Reese) went around in the spring and summer at camps showing people the way to stop Florida’s offense,” Spurrier said. “So, the next year, we tried to put a good one on them.”

Florida, ranked No. 1, beat 12th-ranked LSU 56-13.

“We had 42 at the half and they just started playing soft zone so we ran out the clock and they ran it out with us,” Spurrier said.

Florida lost in Baton Rouge the following year and the goalposts came down hard. But that would be it. The scores of Spurrier’s final three games against LSU: 31-10, 41-9 and 44-15 with two of the games in Red Stick.

Back then, it was an SEC game. Today it is a rivalry.

“I think a lot of it is that DBU stuff, they say they’re DBU and we say we are,” Spurrier said. “And then they had that scuffle with Leonard Fournette in 2016.”

Certainly, the handling of the hurricane that year made the rivalry more intense. Gator fans prefer the old days when a win over LSU was almost guaranteed.

But a lot was different when Spurrier was running roughshod over the conference.

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