Jesu Cristo, this team is good.
South Carolina entered The Swamp ranked 24th in the country. They had the 3rd-best defense in the country, the 10th-best scoring defense and the 11th-best rushing defense. They had won six of seven.
They lost by fifty points, gave up 56 and allowed Florida to rush for 346 yards. But I suspect Spurrier won't complain to the media about Urban Meyer running up the score.
In fact, preliminary reports on the message board GatorCountry.com seem to indicate that Spurrier told Meyer at the postgame handshake to "Go win four in a row." That warms the heart of this UF alum. (And might give the university a new addition to its Go Gators commercial)
I wasn't exactly worried about the game, but South Carolina's defense presented a real threat. I figured Florida would scuffle for a bit before pulling out a 27-1o kind of victory. And for about nine minutes, this looked like a real game. Jeff Demps fumbled on Florida's first drive and the Gators had to punt on their second. South Carolina took over deep in its own territory with about six minutes to go and the score tied 0-0.
And that's when things went awry.
Gamecock QB Chris Smelley threw a hilariously bad interception to Brandon Spikes, who returned it for a touchdown. Ahmad Black intercepted Smelley on the next drive and Percy Harvin scored on the very next play. USC(E) tried to replicate the Music City Miracle on the ensuing kickoff, botched the trick play and set up Florida for a one-yard touchdown run. The game degenerated from there.
It was Percy's day. He ran for 167 yards on eight carries and broke an 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. That young man has lightning in his legs, and if he drops out of the first round of the NFL Draft I'll have compelling evidence that NFL GMs are morons.
Tim Tebow scored seven touchdowns and threw for about 250 yards against South Carolina last year, a performance that pretty much won him the Heisman. He didn't put up those kind of numbers this time around, but he did throw for two touchdowns and run for one more. He only picked up 173 passing yards and completed 13 of his 20 attempts.
But the story of the game and of the season has to be UF's much and justifiably maligned defense. We're now 10 games into the season, and Florida's defense entered tonight's game ranked 14th in the country. We have enough of a sample size to take that statistic seriously. And while South Carolina's offense is fairly unimpressive, it's hard not to smile hearing that Florida gave up only 173 total yards. The Gators even managed to generate pressure with the front four, which was something they haven't done with any consistency this year. UF intercepted three passes and now have 17 on the year. (They picked off 11 all last season) The last was a work of art from true freshman Will Hill, who won a Reggie Nelson-lookalike contest by swooping in out of nowhere to pick off Stephen Garcia.
With The Citadel up next, tonight's win essentially guarantees a 10-win season for the Gators, their second in the last three seasons. Only Florida State and Alabama stand between Florida and a chance at yet another national championship.