Saturday November 15, 2008No. 3 UF Cruises Past No. 24 South Carolina, 56-6
No. 3 Florida cruised to a 56-6 win over No. 24 South Carolina Saturday evening in front of a crowd of 90,646 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The win moved the Gators to 9-1 overall (7-1 SEC), while South Carolina fell to 7-4 (4-4 SEC). The 56-point win over the Gamecocks marked the fifth-straight game that the Gators have put up 42 or more points, tying the University of Oklahoma for the longest active streak in the nation.
It was a career-best day for junior running back/wide receiver Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.), who recorded eight rushes for a career-high 167 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Harvin now holds the top three spots in the UF record books for rushing yards by a wide receiver in a season, totaling 476 yards rushing so far this year. Harvin additionally extended his scoring streak to 12-straight games with a touchdown, tying Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who also shares the feat.
UF junior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) led the Gators in the air, completing 13-of-20 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Tebow additionally accumulated 39 yards on the ground on 14 carries, punching one rush into the end zone for his 11th rushing touchdown of the season.
Junior athlete and UF punt-return man Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) also chimed in with a career-best day, breaking single-season and career records in total punt return yards for the Gators, tallying 60 punt return yards total against USC, bringing his season total to 427 yards, and his career total to 1,044 yards to top the UF record books in both.
Florida jumped out to a 21-0 lead over South Carolina in the first quarter, thanks to the penetration of the Gator defense, scoring all 21 points in only a 2:15 window of time. In his second career start, sophomore linebacker Brandon Hicks (Jacksonville, Fla.) caused two Gamecock interceptions and a USC quarterback sack, with the first interception picked off for a touchdown by junior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.). The interception marked the third of Spikes’ career, all coming this season, and his second for a touchdown. Spikes is one of three linebackers in the nation to have returned two picks for touchdowns this season.
The Gators entered today’s game tied for first in the nation in interceptions returned for touchdowns, with four, but the interceptions didn’t end with Spikes’ 12-yard pick for a score.
Hicks’ pressure on USC’s next possession allowed another sophomore quarterback Chris Smelley’s pass to fall into UF’s hands, this time into sophomore safety Ahmad Black’s (Lakeland, Fla.), giving Florida possession of the ball once again after Black’s sixth interception this year. Harvin found the end zone on a 26-yard run for his 12th-consecutive game with a touchdown.
After the Florida kickoff, Gamecock wide receiver Dion LeCorn misfired on a lateral throwback pass across the field on the kickoff return that was picked up by Gator senior long snapper James Smith (Gainesville, Fla.) on the coverage. Smith took the ball to the Gamecock one-yard line, allowing Tebow to punch the ball in for Florida’s third score in a row. Senior kicker Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) converted on all three extra points to swing the momentum in favor of the Orange and Blue at the close of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, South Carolina failed to capitalize on a fumble recovery, giving the ball back to the Gators on their own 16-yard line. On a four-play, 86-yard drive, Tebow connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) on a 46-yard pass to the end zone. Following the Phillips’ extra point, Florida claimed a 28-0 advantage. The 28-point lead marked the most points given up by the Gamecocks all season.
South Carolina put its first points on the board with 2:35 left in the first half when senior kicker Ryan Succop split the goal posts on a 41-yard attempt to narrow the margin to 28-3.
The Gators jumped out of the gates in the second half, scoring on the first offensive play of the quarter on a career-long 80-yard run by Harvin to the end zone. The 80-yard score put Florida ahead, 35-0, after the Phillips point-after attempt, and marked the seventh-longest rushing touchdown in Florida history. It also marked the second time in Harvin’s career he has scored two rushing touchdowns in a game.
USC countered on its next possession after an 11-play, 56-yard drive with another Succop field goal, this time a 44-yarder, to give the Gamecocks another three points, narrowing the UF advantage to 35-6.
Freshman athlete Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.) and sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) both found the end zone for Florida in the second half, Demps on a 38-yard run in the third quarter, and Hernandez on a five-yard pass from Tebow to start the fourth quarter. The two scores and Phillips’ two extra points put Florida ahead, 49-6.
Another freshman, safety Will Hill (West Orange, Fla.), stepped it up for the Gator defense, picking off a pass by redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia and totaling a 30-yard interception return. The pick was the first of Hill’s career and led to a Gator score when redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.) found the end zone on a three-yard run. Freshman kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.) split the uprights to give Florida a 56-6 edge, the final margin.
Smelley led the Gamecocks in passing on the evening, completing 13-of-24 passes for 92 yards, but had two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Kenny McKinley led USC in receiving with 37 yards on six receptions, while freshman tailback Eric Baker led the Gamecocks on the ground with 23 yards on six rushes.
The Gators will be back in action next Saturday, Nov. 22, when they host The Citadel at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on pay-per-view.