Ask Steve Spurrier about his favorite rivalries, and it’ll take him a while to get to Missouri. You know he’s pretty happy about the number of times that he beat Georgia, and the number of haymakers he and Bobby Bowden traded in the 1990s during the peak of the Florida-FSU rivalry was incredible. He only coached against Missouri five times, and only one game (2013) had any sort of major national consequences.
Mizzou and Spurrier’s South Carolina packed quite a bit in those five games, though. Granted, the 2012 and 2015 battles were the opposite of memorable, but between the 2005 Independence Bowl, the soul-crushing 2013 game, and the unexpected 2014 comeback, these two programs traded some impressive blows.
Of course, the first time Spurrier took on a Mizzou team was almost 40 years before the ‘05 battle in Shreveport.
Throughout history, how often do you figure a team has stopped a soon-to-be Heisman Trophy quarterback on three two-point conversions? I'm willing to bet it isn't a very common occurrence. It takes a team with an infinitely supply of testicular fortitude to pull that off. Luckily, Mizzou's 1965 defense proved it had just that.
Missouri had already been on both ends of comeback attempts that season. Against UCLA, the Tigers had fallen behind 14-0 in the fourth quarter before putting together the most unlikely of comebacks — two special teams touchdowns did the deed — and pulling off a tie. Against Nebraska, it was the other way around. Mizzou took a quick 14-0 lead before NU came back and, aided by an official who wasn't fond of curse words, did just just enough to beat Mizzou, 16-14.
By this point in the season, the Tigers were probably pretty unimpressed with double-digit leads or deficits. Good thing, too, because lesser teams might have panicked in the face of a mad comeback attempt by a stud quarterback.
Heading into the Sugar Bowl, you'd think the attention had to be on the offenses, right? Quarterback Gary Lane, Big 8 leading rusher Charley Brown, and do-everything Johnny Roland versus Spurrier (11 months prior to winning the Heisman) and All-American receiver Charley Casey.
For both teams, though, defense took top billing. Missouri's defense featured Roland and a stout secondary and had only given up more than 14 points twice in 10 games. Meanwhile, the Florida defense entered the Sugar Bowl ranked seventh in the country, highlighted by All-Americans of their own in end Lynn Matthews and back Bruce Bennett.
Sure enough, it was a defensive show early. But after a scoreless first quarter, Mizzou's rushing attack got rolling. The Tigers put together a 59-yard drive that was highlighted by Brown's lovely diving catch of a Lane pass. Brown then jetted in from 10 yards out to give Mizzou a 7-0 lead.
The teams then traded punts, but Florida muffed a return and handed Mizzou good field position. The Tigers took immediate advantage with a halfback option pass from Johnny Roland to Earl Denny, and it was 14-0.
Florida finally got rolling on offense after that. The future Ol' Ball Coach drove the Gators to the Mizzou 10, but a penalty dropped them back to the 25, and Mizzou’s Dan Schuppan recovered a Spurrier fumble to stop the drive. Missouri sneaked in a field goal before the halftime buzzer and took a commanding 17-0 lead into the break.
To shut out the potent Gators for a half was quite impressive, but to do it for another half would be impossible, right?
Well, maybe not. The D picked up where it left off, posting a scoreless third quarter. More importantly, The Tigers tacked on another field goal to increase the lead to 20-0. Those three points made a world of difference.
Heading into the final quarter, Mizzou had the dagger in its hands. The Tigers faced a 3rd-and-1 from the Florida 15 and a chance to end any hope of a Florida comeback, but Carl Reese was stuffed for no gain. Devine then had a choice to make: go for a third field goal and technically keep Florida within three possessions, or go for the first down, score a touchdown, and end the game.
Devine, who showed against UCLA that he had no problem going for the win when he went for two down 14-6 in the fourth quarter (they missed and needed a two-point conversion on their next touchdown just to tie), went for the jugular. And missed. Reese was stuffed again on fourth down, and Florida was given life.
Six passes later (all completions), it was 20-6. Spurrier took the Gators 85 yards in the blink of an eye, but for some curious reason, Florida coach Ray Graves decided the Gators should go for two. The attempt failed, and Florida was down a full 14 points.
That did nothing to discourage the Gators, however. Mizzou’s Earl Denny fumbled, setting up a one-yard Spurrier plunge, and it was 20-12. Ken Boston, however, broke up Spurrier's second two-point attempt, and the lead remained eight. Two PATs would have put them down six.
After a Mizzou punt, Spurrier had to lead Florida 81 yards for a chance to tie and did exactly that. And once again, it didn't take long. A spectacular juggling catch by Casey (who finished with five catches, 108 yards, and the career SEC receiving record) did the deed, and the score stood at 20-18 with four minutes left.
This time it was Jim Whitaker stepping up to the plate for the Tigers — he broke up a pass intended for Barry Brown (who had nine catches for 88 yards on the day), and Mizzou had stopped a third two-pointer.
Florida got the ball back one last time, but Mizzou's defense finally responded, quashing the rally, closing out a dramatic Sugar Bowl win, and allowing the 12,000-plus Missouri fans in attendance to exhale for the first time in about an hour.
It’s like the two teams were playing different sports. Mizzou did almost all of its damage on the ground, with Brown rushing 22 times for 120 yards and Lane adding 19 for 76. Lane was only 4-for-13 passing, but that wasn’t Mizzou’s offense.
Portions of this piece originally appeared in this 2009 post.