One that got away: Fish fumble gave Gators boost in title game

Arkansas receiver Reggie Fish kneels following the completion of the 2006 SEC Championship Game against Florida on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006, in Atlanta. Fish’s third quarter fumble helped the Gators score a touchdown in their 38-28 win over the Razorbacks. Photo and Purchase Information FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks played in the SEC Championship Game for the third time when they faced Florida on Dec. 2, 2006, in the Georgia Dome, but this was different than their previous two appearances.

This time the Razorbacks were confident they would win.

That doesn’t mean the 1995 and 2002 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville teams didn’t give it their best shot, but they were big underdogs and got pounded 34-3 by No. 2 Florida and 31-3 by No. 4 Georgia, respectively.

Arkansas went into its 2006 matchup with Florida on equal footing.

The Gators were ranked No. 4 and just a three-point favorite. The Razorbacks were ranked No. 8 after losing 31-26 to No. 9 LSU in Little Rock during the last game of the regular season. The Hogs were ranked No. 5 before that game.

Both teams won their divisions by going 7-1 in SEC play. Arkansas was in position to win its first SEC championship, leading Florida in the third quarter, but a botched punt return helped the Gators rally in a matchup of top 10 teams.

Most Memorable Games

“We knew we could compete with Florida and win the game,” said Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas’ starting center from 2006-2008 and an All-American and Rimington Award winner. “They hit us in the mouth early, but we fought back and got the lead.

“What could have been really weighs on your mind.”

Florida rallied to win 38-28 after a botched punt return helped the Gators overcome a 21-17 deficit.

“There’s no doubt we should have won the title,” said Houston Nutt, the Razorbacks coach from 1998-2007. “We had Florida beat.”

Two fourth-down calls by Gators Coach Urban Meyer on the same drive were critical.

Arkansas had scored 21 consecutive points on touchdown passes by Casey Dick to Marcus Monk and Darren McFadden to Felix Jones, and defensive lineman Antwain Robinson’s 40-yard interception return to take a 21-17 lead with 8:33 left in the third quarter.The Razorbacks then had the Gators backed up and facing fourth-and-10 at their own 15. Arkansas figured to get the ball back around midfield after a punt and be in good position to add to its lead.Only Florida didn’t punt.Meyer called for a fake, and Jamalle Cornelius ran 17 yards for a first down at the Gators 32.“It was a total desperation move,” Nutt said. “He knew we were outplaying them and he was in serious trouble.“We had them on the ropes.”Florida then faced fourth-and-1 at its 41.Meyer called his third and final timeout of the second half and said after the game he wanted to go for the first down again, but co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison talked him into punting.Arkansas freshman Reggie Fish — returning punts for the injured Peyton Hillis — waited at the Razorbacks 20 for […]