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Georgia tries to put life back into the Cocktail Party

October 30, 1997

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Emmitt Robertson has gone through the same routine for eight years.

In a caravan with other Georgia fans, he drives his trailer home into a concrete lot situated between the St. Johns River and a stadium he still calls the Gator Bowl.

For three days before the annual Georgia-Florida game, he serves up cocktails, grills steaks and trades barbs _ most of them involve Steve Spurrier _ in a commune of motor homes shared by Bulldogs and Gators alike.

There is one part of his vacation he would love to change.

``I’ve cried every Saturday night,″ said Robertson, a lifelong Georgia fan who has suffered through a rivalry that has turned decidedly in Florida’s favor since 1990.

This year, Georgia believes it may be able to put some life into what is known as the ``World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.″

``We want to put this rivalry thing back on the map,″ said Georgia center Brad Stafford. ``I still think it’s a rivalry, but the last six years we’ve been kind of absent for awhile.″

It is a rivalry, one of the best between schools from bordering states in a stadium that will be evenly divided between fans wearing the orange-and-blue of Florida and the red-and-black of Georgia.

The trouble is, it hasn’t looked like much of a rivalry lately.

In a series that dates to at least 1915, no team has ever won more than seven in a row. Florida has a chance to win its eighth straight on Saturday, and the last few games haven’t even been close.

The Gators have scored more points in the seven games of the 1990s (293) than they did in the previous two decades combined (288). They have scored at least 30 points in six of seven games under Spurrier, after doing that just twice in 67 previous games against Georgia.

What about Herschel Walker? What about Lindsay Scott and his 93-yard touchdown pass in 1980?

``The only memories I’ve had are us beating them every year since I’ve been here,″ said backup quarterback Noah Brindise, a fifth-year senior.

Saturday’s game will be the first time since 1992 that both teams have been in the top 20, and both teams have a shot at getting to the Southeastern Conference game.

The sixth-ranked Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) are coming off two of their worst offensive performances in five years _ one of them a 28-21 loss at LSU _ but they still have a defense that ranks 10th in the country.

No. 14 Georgia has an identical record and is led by the efficiency of quarterback Mike Bobo, the versatility of Hines Ward and the strong running of Robert Edwards.

``This is a game everybody talks to you about wherever you go,″ said coach Jim Donnan. ``When you’ve lost to them as many times as we have, I’m sure it’s something that bothers everybody. But nobody wants to beat them more than I do, I promise you. Our kids are going to be excited about the opportunity.″

No matter what the records are or what the trend is, Spurrier always gets excited for this one. No one has felt the pain of losing to Georgia like he has.

``Over the years, Georgia has been the team that has held the upper hand,″ said Spurrier, speaking more like a player still burned by two losses than the coach of a team that has won seven straight over the Dawgs.

The most crushing blow was in 1966, the year Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as Florida’s quarterback. The Gators were 7-0 and favored to win their first SEC championship until Spurrier threw three interceptions in a 27-10 loss to the Dawgs.

``This game is in Steve’s blood, no question,″ said Florida assistant coach Barry Wilson, a captain for the 1964 Georgia team that also beat Spurrier and the Gators.

Florida usually has to beat Tennessee to win the SEC East, and Florida State for a chance at the national title.

But Georgia ``is probably our biggest rival,″ he said this week.

How big? They even fight over when the series began.

Georgia counts a 52-0 victory in 1904. The Gators say they weren’t even recognized by the state Legislature as the University of Florida until 1906, so the series didn’t begin until 1915.

Florida is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the series on Saturday.

``We are not revisionist historians,″ said Norm Carlson, Florida’s assistant athletic director and longtime publicist. ``Georgia has a different version. If they wanted to do a 75th anniversary celebration, they should have done it last year.″

It can be one-sided on the field, but the rivalry never dies.

And neither does the party.

``When daylight comes, we’ll party until the game starts,″ Jim Kersey said Wednesday afternoon after hanging his Georgia flags outside his trailer.

In the neighboring trailer, Robertson said he would love for the game to finally be close. Then he offered a prediction.

``Cocktails at 10. Georgia by 3.″

the records are or what the trend is, Spurrier always gets excited for this one. No one has felt the pain of losing to Georgia like he has.

``Over the years, Georgia has been the team that has held the upper hand,″ said Spurrier, speaking more like a player still burned by two losses than the coach of a team that has won seven straight over the Dawgs.

The most crushing blow was in 1966, the year Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as Florida’s quarterback. The Gators wer 7-0 and favored to win their first SEC championship until Spurrier threw three interceptions in a 27-10 loss to the Dawgs.

``This game is in No matter what the records are or what the trend is, Spurrier always gets excited for this one. No one has felt the pain of losing to Georgia like he has.

``Over the years, Georgia has been the team that has held the upper hand,″ said Spurrier, speaking more like a player still burned by two losses than the coach of a team that has won seven straight over the Dawgs

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