Tuesday October 16th, 2018 10:27AM

Bambino, goats and the curse of the Gator

By The Associated Press
<p>The Boston Red Sox still have the Babe hanging over their heads.</p><p>The Chicago Cubs are trying to overcome that vindictive goat.</p><p>And then theres the Georgia Bulldogs, who have to contend with their own jinx _ the Curse of the Gator.</p><p>Over the past 13 years, Georgia has managed to beat Florida a grand total of one time, a drought that began when one Bush was in the White House and rolled right along until the next generation came to power.</p><p>Last season, the Bulldogs lost only one game on their way to the Southeastern Conference championship. That one loss, of course, was to the Gators.</p><p>I dont think Ill have to remind our players about the history, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. Im sure theyve got it memorized by now.</p><p>The subject is so sensitive to the Bulldog Nation that not even Mike Bobo, who led the Bulldogs to that lone victory in 1997, would reflect on the past. He knows that if he talks about the win, hell probably be asked about all the losses.</p><p>I cant get caught up in what happened six years ago, said Bobo, a quarterback in 97 and now Georgias quarterback coach. Whos won so many in a row or lost so many in a row isnt going to determine who wins this years game.</p><p>Still, the Gators do seem to have gained some sort of mental edge in this series, which resumes Saturday at Jacksonvilles Alltel Stadium _ a.k.a The Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.</p><p>Just look at what happened a year ago. Florida was stumbling along in Ron Zooks first season as coach, while the Bulldogs rolled into the game with a perfect record, the SEC East championship in their grasp and the perfect opportunity to exorcise all those ghosts.</p><p>The Gators didnt play that well _ 42 yards rushing, four turnovers, a missed extra point _ but Georgia couldnt take advantage.</p><p>D.J. Shockley threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. David Greene completed just 11 of 29 passes. And, in the games signature moment, Terrence Edwards dropped a potential game-tying touchdown pass in the waning minutes.</p><p>The final: Florida 20, Georgia 13.</p><p>The team chose that day to play one of its worst games, Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley said. Its not that Florida totally dominated the game. Both teams played bad. We just played worse.</p><p>Now, Dooley doesnt put much stock in jinxes, curses or ghosts _ with good reason.</p><p>As a player at Auburn in the 1950s, he helped break a nine-year drought against Georgia, of all teams. During a 25-year tenure as the Bulldogs coach, Dooley beat the Gators 17 times.</p><p>I think it can be changed, he said. We certainly changed it against Tennessee.</p><p>Indeed. Georgia lost nine straight to the Volunteers from 1989-99, a streak that weighed on Bulldog fans nearly as much as the lack of success against Florida. But a 21-10 victory in 2000 signaled a dramatic turn in that series _ Georgia has now won four in a row against the Vols.</p><p>In fact, the Bulldogs have checked several things off their to-do list in recent years, including an SEC title in 2002 _ their first in 20 years. They also won 13 games for the first time in school history.</p><p>But that one loss. Oooh, that one still stings.</p><p>We think about it a lot, Georgia safety Thomas Davis said. Weve only won one time that I can remember. Its been a real long time for us since weve had a victory in this game. Thats a big focus for us.</p><p>Added teammate Fred Gibson, who initially committed to play for the Gators: It bugs me. It bugs me a lot.</p><p>The series turned in Floridas favor when Steve Spurrier returned to Gainesville in 1990. He hated Georgia with a passion and relished the idea of beating up on the Bulldogs. His timing was impeccable _ Dooley had retired after the 1988 season, and Spurrier got to match wits with Ray Goff.</p><p>It was no contest. In Spurriers first two seasons, Florida beat Georgia by a combined score of 83-20. In 1994-95, when the teams played home-and-home while Jacksonvilles stadium was undergoing renovations, the Gators scored 52 points both years _ becoming the first visiting team to put up a 50-spot at Sanford Stadium.</p><p>He certainly was a factor, Dooley said of Spurrier. Also, we were going through a time where we were not quite as good as a program.</p><p>Goff was fired after the 95 season, but Spurrier kept on rolling with a 47-7 victory over Jim Donnans Dawgs. The seven-game losing streak finally ended in 97, when Georgia romped to a stunning 37-17 victory.</p><p>A change in fortune? Hardly.</p><p>Florida has since won five in a row.</p><p>Its a different Georgia team and a different Florida team every year, Bulldogs tailback Tyson Browning said. But they may be a little more confident because they have won 12 of 13.</p><p>Richt has been a part of the last two losses. Hes not aware of any magic formula for lifting this curse.</p><p>I dont know what you can do about it except win, he said. Youll get people to stop talking about when you win. Until you do, theyll keep talking.</p>
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