COUNTDOWN: Spurrier Coaches SC Past Gators

For months, every long-time Gator fan had a queasy feeling about November 12, 2005. Some of you were among those who wanted Steve Spurrier back on the Gator sideline, ticked off that Bernie Machen and Jeremy Foley didn't make it happen. Others were content with the Spurrier Era and wanted it to remain unaltered.

(Fifth in a series of 10 stories)

Still, the idea that the Head Ball Coach would be calling ball plays against the Gators was nauseating. But that's what was about to happen.

Both Florida and South Carolina entered the game still in the race for the SEC Eastern Division Title. It wasn't the Spurrier fun-and-gun getting it done; however, it was more like a Houdini act. Much like the '92 Gators, this Spurrier coached team was quite often overmatched but kept finding ways to win. The Gamecocks were 6-3, despite scoring 16 points or less in five of the first nine games. They were coming in off wins over Tennessee (16-15) and Arkansas (14-10) that were the artistic equivalent of the north end of a south-bound rhinoceros.

Gators Were Feeling Good

Florida entered the game 7-2 feeling pretty good about surviving a scare from a much improved Vanderbilt team. Florida still had a shot at the SEC title game, a ten-win season and BCS Bowl game. And while the Spurrier story line dominated the week, only a few of the players on the Florida team had signed with SOS. Mike Degory, Jarvis Herring, Vernell Brown, Lance Butler and Todd McCullough all were part of Spurrier's last recruiting class, but only McCullough played in 2001. So playing against the most famous Gator of them all really didn't faze the players.

Huge Mistake Puts UF Behind

It didn't take long for South Carolina to take the lead, and as usual it had nothing to do with the Gamecocks offense. 'Cocks defensive tackle Chris Tucker intercepted a Chris Leak pass and rumbled 48 yards to set up an easy touchdown for a seven-zip lead. The Gators then drove the length of the field, but settled for a 30-yard field goal and a 7-3 deficit after one quarter. More Gator mistakes helped South Carolina in the second with Dee (call me Round 7) Webb picking up a pair of penalties to set up another Carolina score for a 14-3 score.

The Gators handed South Carolina the ball at the Gator 47 to set up a short drive and midway through the second quarter it was 20-3.

Florida began its comeback on the Gamecocks extra point when Webb ran the block back for two points. Leak to Jackson from 31 yards out made it 20-12 at the half and Florida seemed to be gaining control of the game in the third quarter with an impressive drive ending with a Leak to Latsko TD connection. However the Gators strangely decided to for one, made it, but still trailed 20-19.

The momentum only lasted until a short pass to Carolina receiver Sidney Rice saw Rice get away from two tacklers and turn a short gain into a 64 yard play.

Embarrassing Finish

Each team managed a field goal in the fourth quarter, but Florida's slim hope of a late rally ended with an illegal participation penalty with a minute to play allowing Carolina to run out the clock.

The Gators out-gained South Carolina by 113 yards and had five more first downs, but the mistakes made the difference. The emotion of playing against Steve Spurrier was felt more off the field than on it, and it was obvious the head ball coach was pleased, yet had mixed emotions afterwards. But if he thinks that was tough, wait till he brings his team to The Swamp this November.

Still, for the winningest coach in UF history to coach against and beat his alma mater was an incredible story; and it comes it at #6 on our list.

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