Florida squeaks by USC 17-16

A 48-yard field goal blocked with eight seconds left. A PAT by a kicker, who had never missed a point after, blocked. A 47-yard field goal blocked. A penalty negates a 55-yard field goal that was good. For the third game in a row, USC had its chances to defeat a highly ranked SEC opponent, only to watch the other team celebrate victory. This time it was Florida who got away, 17-16.

Steve Spurrier returned to The Swamp, bringing his new team to the visiting sidelines to battle the Gators on national television in front of 90,703, the third largest crowd ever to witness a game in Gainesville. The stage was set for an epic battle, and that was what those in attendance at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and those watching on television saw. At the end of the day, the team expected to win did so by the narrowest of margins, and the team expected to lose had their hearts broken in their fourth close SEC loss of the season.

Florida now remains in contention for the BCS national championship, and Spurrier said after the game, "This could be the year of the Gators."

Spurrier resisted questions after question from the media asking him about any special emotions returning to The Swamp where he won so many games when he was the Florida coach. ""I was just trying to win a ball game," he said. "I was just trying to get South Carolina its first win in the Swamp. We couldn't get it done today. I will not stand here and complain."

Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer said after the game, "That was a great ending against a very talented and well-coached team. We're going to enjoy the win."

The loss marred what Spurrier called after the game "Blake Mitchell's best game ever." The USC quarterback completed 24 of 33 attempts for 275 yards, and was not intercepted. Mitchell said, "I felt I played pretty well. I didn't turn the ball over. I didn't get hot too much. That doesn't make me feel any better about a loss."

South Carolina scored first with 26 seconds left in the first quarter, when running back Mike Davis capped an 80-yard drive with a 4 yard run to put USC up 7-0. USC ran the ball seven times on the drive, and Mitchell completed six of six passes for a balanced attack.

USC held Florida scoreless for the first half until 1:25 left in the half, when for the third week in a row a USC defensive back lost the battle for the ball and the opposing team scored a touchdown as a result. Chris Leak's 21-yard pass to Dallas Baker tied the score at halftime 7-7.

In the second half, a promising Florida drive was halted at the USC 18 when Stoney Woodson intercepted a Chris Leak pass. A penalty moved USC back to the 11-yard line, and they drove it down to the Florida 30, where Ryan Succop's field goal attempt was blocked, and Florida recovered on the USC 47.

The USC defense held again, and after a Florida punt, drove down to the Florida 29, where this time a Succop field goal was good, giving USC a 10-7 lead.

Florida then tied the game with a field goal of their own, but USC came right back and scored a touchdown, behind three Mitchell passes completed for 56 yards, and Davis ran 14 yards for his second touchdown of the game. The point after was blocked, and that missed point ended up being the margin of victory for the Gators.

Florida finally looked like an SEC championship caliber team on the next drive, taking the ball 80 yards down the field for a score, complete with an extra point.

USC moved the ball effectively on their last drive, only to have the field goal attempt blocked by Florida's Jarvis Moss, who simply made a perfect leap high in the air to knock the ball down. Meyer after the game said, "Jarvis Moss is a freak."

Chris Leak broke Danny Wuerffel's career record for passing, rushing, and receiving yards in the game. Leak now has 10, 553 yards to Wuerffel's 10,500.

Syvelle Newton started the game at free safety, the first time he had ever played on defense, and ended up the game as the Gamecock's second leading tackler, with seven solo tackles, and eight total, including a knockdown in the end zone to prevent a Gator touchdown.

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