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Spurrier Says 2001 Loss to Vols was Most Difficult of Career

Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

Throughout his head coaching career, Steve Spurrier has coached a total of 395 games. Spurrier coached 54 games in the USFL as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits to start his career, and he led Washington for two seasons and 32 games in the NFL in 2002 and 2003. But the vast majority of his career was spent at the collegiate ranks where he coached three different teams (Duke, Florida, South Carolina) for 319 games.

Almost half (150) of Spurrier’s collegiate coaching career was spent as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Spurrier was the head coach of the Gators for 12 seasons from 1990 to 2001, winning 122 of his 150 games, including the 1996 National Championship.

But it’s his last game with the Gators that Spurrier still can’t shake. And that was a loss to the Tennessee Volunteers.

Almost a week after the Atlanta Falcons gave up a 25-point lead to the New England Patriots and lost Super Bowl 51, the Orlando Sentinel interviewed several current and former head coaches about the most difficult losses they’ve suffered as head coaches. And Spurrier’s answer was the 34-32 defeat the Vols handed his Gators on the final regular season game of the 2001 season.

“We had such a super, super team that year,” Spurrier said of his 2001 squad. “That’s why the loss was so hard to take. Tennessee ran it right down our throats.”

The game had been moved to the regular season finale because of the tragedy that was 9/11 earlier that season. It was the latest these two teams had played since becoming SEC rivals. Florida had a loaded roster with Rex Grossman starting at quarterback and the SEC’s best defense supporting him and the offense.

Florida was the No. 2 team in the nation and was gunning for another national title. But No. 4 Tennessee, a 17-point underdog on the road in The Swamp, had other ideas.

Tennessee running back Travis Stephens ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vols pulled off the 34-32 upset, ending Florida’s title hopes.

“We finished third in the nation that year and didn’t win anything,” Spurrier stated. “That Tennessee loss was so crucial, because I really thought we had a team that could go all the way.

“Losing that game hurt a lot. I don’t know if you ever completely get over a loss like that.”

Spurrier only lost to Tennessee a total of four times in 12 years at Florida, but it’s his last defeat (and last game as Florida’s head coach) that he remembers most of any of his losses as a head coach.

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