Five Fun Facts About Last Meeting Between Florida and Notre Dame

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of University of Notre Dame

It’s officially the offseason in college football.

That means sometimes games that take place more than a decade away can constitute big news. That was the case this week as Florida and Notre Dame announced a home-and-home series for 2031 and 2032.

The Gators will head to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish on Nov. 15, 2031. Notre Dame returns the favor less than a year later when it travels to Gainesville for a Sept. 8, 2032 contest.

Barring a bowl meeting before then, these two meetings will be just the second and third between the schools. The only prior meeting came in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1991 season as the Fighting Irish rolled to a 39-28 victory.

Here are five fun facts about that contest:

1. Florida was a 6.5-Point Favorite

Entering the contest, Florida was nearly a touchdown favorite. The third-ranked Gators finished 10-1 during the regular season and swept through the SEC. Notre Dame, on the other hand, was 9-3 and had lost two of its final three games to close the regular season.

Florida led 22-17 in the fourth quarter before the first of Notre Dame running back Jerome Bettis’ three touchdown runs in the period — a 3-yard score — put the Fighting Irish ahead for good. Bettis added touchdown runs of 49 and 39 yards. He finished with 150 yards rushing and was named the game’s MVP.

2. It was Steve Spurrier’s First Bowl Game at Florida

Head coach Steve Spurrier was in his second season at Florida during the 1991 season. Despite finishing 9-2 and with the best SEC record in 1990, Florida was on probation and ineligible for a bowl game. The Sugar Bowl loss would begin a streak of 22 straight bowl appearances for the Gators.

3. It was Lou Holtz’s Lone Win Over Spurrier as a Head Coach

The contest was not only a match-up of outstanding football teams, but coaching greats as well. Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz was three years removed from leading the Fighting Irish to a national championship while Spurrier was five years away from winning his first. The legends would meet four times as head coaches, but the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1992 served as Holtz’s lone win head-to-head.

Holtz would resign at Notre Dame following the 1996 season, but returned to coaching in 1999 when he became head man at South Carolina. Holtz and Spurrier’s Gators met in each of his first three seasons in Columbia, but Florida won all three contests by at least 17 points. Spurrier left Florida for the NFL following the 2001 season, but returned to the college game in 2005 as Holtz’s replacement at South Carolina.

4. Florida Held the Edge in Yardage, Turnovers

During the 1992 Sugar Bowl, Florida had the edge is most categories. The Gators finished with 511 yards to 433 for Notre Dame. Florida also forced four turnovers while giving it away twice, but the difference was settling for field goals.

Despite a then Sugar Bowl record 370 passing yards from Shane Matthews, the Gators settled for five Arden Czyzewski field goals. Notre Dame scored six times, but five of those were touchdowns. In addition to Bettis’ three touchdowns, Notre Dame quarterback Rick Mirer threw touchdown passes to Lake Dawson and Irv Smith.

5. The Contest Was the Highest Scoring Sugar Bowl at the Time

When Florida and Notre Dame combined for 67 points, it was the highest in Sugar Bowl history at the time. It bested the 58-point Sugar Bowl played between Miami and Alabama two years prior.

The record would fall by the wayside five years later when Florida topped rival Florida State 52-20 in a contest that ultimately gave the Gators their first national title. A 47-34 victory for LSU over Illinois at the end of the 2001 season now holds the distinction as the highest scoring Sugar Bowl.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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