Early Sunday evening, a barrage of choreographed tweets suddenly flooded Gator fans’ twitter timelines. The tweets were simple and cryptic, all containing the exact same message: 6000. Here are just a few of them:
What does that mean?
Well, before I give it away, I figure I’ll make a game of it and give y’all three hints.
Hint number one: last May, something very similar went down among Gator fans.
Hint number two: “Alexa and/or Siri, what was the date six thousand days ago?” And more importantly, what happened on that date six thousand days ago?
Hint number three: http://schedulestrength.com/ut/
And there you have it. Today marks six thousand (6000) days since Tennessee’s football team last defeated the Florida Gators in the Swamp. It was on September 20, 2003- 6000 days ago- that Casey Clausen heaved a successful 48 yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half to James Banks, climbed upon the stadium ledge and directed the band in some forty consecutive versions of Rocky Top and “drained the Swamp,” as Vols fans call it.
Of course, since Florida and Tennessee play every year- and thus, since Tennessee comes to the Swamp every other year- the Vols have had a multitude of chances to make this stat not be the case. But instead, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has been nothing but a cascade of misery for the Volunteers.
It started with the 2005 “Death by Sledgehammer” game, an ugly 16-7 Florida win, and just got uglier from there. Florida obliterated Tennessee 59-20 in 2007, beat them 23-13 in a game one-year Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin never even bothered to try to win in 2009, and cruised to a 33-23 win that was much worse than the final score indicated in 2011.
Things really started getting embarrassing for Tennessee in Gainesville in 2013. Florida stumbled to a 4-8 record that year, which still stands as the Gators’ worst season since 1979, but that didn’t stop Will Muschamp’s team from easily handling the Volunteers by a 31-17 margin.
Two years later was even worse: a 27-14 Tennessee lead with ten minutes to go evaporated as Will Grier guided Florida for back to back touchdown drives- the latter of which featured a 4th and 14 conversion to Antonio Callaway that turned into an electrifying 63 yard touchdown- and then Aaron Medley’s potential game winning field goal sailed maybe three quarters of an inch wide of the right upright.
The ultimate ignobility, though, came in 2017. Florida seemingly had the game won, but a late Feleipe Franks interception gave Tennessee the tying field goal with less than a minute to go. Seemingly content to play for overtime despite good field position, Franks redeemed himself by launching a perfect spiral that traveled a solid 70 yards in the air and landed in the hands of Tyrie Cleveland for a walk-off 63 yard touchdown that sent the Swamp into an absolute frenzy.
But perhaps nothing better epitomizes this series than what happened on Tennessee’s last trip to the Swamp- the complete and utter beatdown the Gators administered to the hapless Volunteers to drop them to 1-3 in the season. Florida promptly took the opening kickoff, drove right down the field for a touchdown and quickly turned the game into a blowout. Up 31-3 with two and a half minutes to go in the game, Dan Mullen apparently decided that wasn’t good enough and tacked on a 37 field goal to make the final score 34-3.
As a quick footnote: it’s worth noting that Tennessee doesn’t exactly pick up the slack against the Gators in Neyland Stadium, either. Florida has also beaten Tennessee six of the last seven times they’ve traveled to Knoxville, including a 47-21 dismantling in their most recent trip up to Rocky Top in 2018.
So the next time Tennessee fans want to troll Florida on social media with images of Jauan Jennings catching a touchdown pass in the Vols’ lone win in the series since 2003, or swear on behalf of all things holy that THIS IS THE YEAR WE BEAT YOU, they might want to remember one thing.
It’s been 6000 days since you’ve won in Gainesville- and since your second most recent win over Florida. And counting.