Georgia and LSU did battle over the weekend in Atlanta in what was the 31st SEC Championship game. The first one, however, came on this day 30 years ago.
In the end, it was a defensive play that decided the outcome. Antonio Langham’s 27-yard interception return for a touchdown kept Alabama undefeated in a 28-21 victory over Florida.
Setting the Stage
The teams met at Legion Field in Birmingham on Dec. 5, 1992. At 11-0, Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the country and was representing the newly-formed SEC West.
Under third-year head coach Steve Spurrier, SEC East champion Florida was 8-3 and ranked No. 12. As time ticked away, momentum was wearing orange and blue.
Langham Saves the Day
Florida had erased what was once a 21-7 deficit and in a 21-21 game, had the ball with less than four minutes to go. A 2-time SEC Player of the Year, Florida quarterback Shane Matthews was looking to lead a scoring drive and go out a champion.
Instead, he made the game’s most critical mistake.
Looking to his right, Matthews never saw Langham who stepped in front of his pass and returned it 27 yards for a score with just 3:16 remaining. An Alabama defense that didn’t allow more than 21 points in any game all season did the rest.
Derrick Lassic rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the win. Florida’s Errict Rhett rushed for and caught a touchdown, including the tying score with 8:09 to play.
Head coach Gene Stallings and Alabama would go on to rout No. 1 Miami in the Sugar Bowl, 34-13. The Crimson Tide finished 13-0 and national champions for the first time since 1979.
Florida bounced back to beat NC State in the Gator Bowl, 27-10. The Gators finished 9-4 and No. 10 in the final AP Poll.
Florida and Alabama would meet in each of the first three SEC Championships with the Gators winning in 1993 and 1994 during what would be a run of four straight conference crowns. In the history of conference title games, Alabama and Florida is the most common matchup across all conference championships. The schools first met in Birmingham on this day three decades ago.
Featured image: AP Photo
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.