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Saturday November 14, 2009No. 1 Florida Concludes SEC Schedule With 24-14 Win At South Carolina

Columbia, S.C.

Sparked by an interception by junior defensive end Justin Trattou (Ramsey, N.J.), the No. 1 Florida Gators (10-0, 7-0) defeated South Carolina (6-5, 3-5), 24-14, in front of a crowd of 79,297 at Williams-Brice Stadium. With the win, the Gators extended their win streak to a nationís-best and school-record 20 games.

Head coach Urban Meyer moved into first place on the list of the all-time winningest SEC coaches in conference games with a win percentage of .800 (32-8), surpassing Tennesseeís Robert Neyland.

Quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville , Fla.) finished the game 14-for-25 for 199 yards and one touchdown. The senior tallied 26 rushing yards on 16 carries with one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) led the Gatorsí receiving corps with three receptions for 112 and one touchdown. Cooper eclipsed the 100-yard receiving plateau for the second time this season and third time in his career.

 

Junior Joe Haden (Ft. Washington, Md.) led the defense with one interception for 20 yards, a sack for a loss of nine yards, 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass break up. For the seventh time this season, the Gator defense held its opponent to under 100 rushing yards, moving past the 2008 mark of five games. The defense held South Carolina scoreless in the second half after surrendering 14 points in the first.

 

Both the Gator offense and defense could not have asked for better starts to the game. On the first drive of the game, the defense held South Carolina to a quick three-and-out, tipping two of the three pass attempts. The offense didnít need much time to put points on the board as Tebow connected with Cooper on a 68-yard touchdown pass to give Florida a 7-0 lead 2:56 into the game. The grab matches Cooperís previous career long, first set against Charleston Southern in the 2009 season opener.

The South Carolina offense responded with their own scoring drive, theirs spanning 81 yards on 14 plays to knock 6:31 off the clock. The Gamecockís Brian Maddox punched it in for a one-yard rush to cap the drive and even the score 7-7 with 5:51 to play in the first quarter. The score marked the first time this season that the Gator defense allowed a touchdown in the first quarter.

Sophomore Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.) extended Floridaís lead 10-7, connecting on a 32-yard field goal attempt with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter. The kick capped an 11-play, 61-yard drive by the Florida offense which was highlighted by a 30-yard catch by Cooper on third down and 12 to go, giving the Gators possession and a new set of downs on South Carolinaís 48-yard line.

Florida tacked another seven points on the scoreboard on its first drive of the second quarter for a 17-7 lead with 10:28 in the half. Redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody (Coppell, Texas) scored his first touchdown of the season on a 17-yard carry off a quarterback option play from Tebow. The touchdown finalized an eight-play, 70-yard scoring drive.

The Gator defense allowed South Carolinaís offense to be on the field for all of two minutes before forcing the first turnover of the game. Senior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) recovered his first fumble of the season with 8:24 remaining in the half after quarterback Stephen Garcia fumbled on a five-yard carry. Floridaís offense took the ball 16 yards before Sturgis failed to convert on a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Garcia and South Carolina took advantage of the field position following the missed field goal, marching down the field 65 yards on eight plays. The Gamecocks chipped into Floridaís lead after Garcia found tight end Weslye Saunders in the back corner of the endzone for a nine-yard touchdown with a little over two minutes to play in the half. The Gators headed into the locker room with a 17-14 lead.

 

After holding South Carolina to a quick three-and-out, Florida began their second drive of the half one yard into Gamecock territory. The Gators found themselves at fourth down and 17 on USCís 37-yard line and sent Sturgis out to attempt a 54-yard field goal. For the second time that night, the kick had the distance but was wide left of the uprights. The Florida defense took over and forced South Carolina to their fourth three-and-out of the game, thanks in part to a quarterback sack by sophomore Will Hill (West Orange, N.J.) for a loss of eight yards.

 

It appeared as if the momentum had shifted to Floridaís favor as senior return man Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) returned the ensuing punt for a season-long 49 yards to the South Carolina 37-yard line. However, the Gamecock defense stepped up to hold Floridaís offense on fourth down and one yard and took over possession at their own 28-yard line.

 

South Carolina and their offense built up an impressive drive, marching 49 yards down the field on ten plays, even converting on fourth down and two, but the Gator defense came through as Trattou collected his first interception of the season, second of his career, on a Garcia pass from the Gatorsí 21-yard line. Trattou, led by his defensive teammates blocking the way, returned the interception 53 yards to swing the momentum in Floridaís favor. The Gators needed only four plays to capitalize on the turnover as Tebow scored on a one-yard keeper to extend the squadís lead to 24-14 with 13:25 remaining in the game. With the score, Tebow matched Kevin Faulkís SEC record of 53 touchdowns.

 

The 24-14 margin remained as Sturgis failed to connect from 29 yards out for his third miss of the game. The Gator defense was relentless as Haden tallied his third interception of the season and seventh of his career to give the Florida offense the ball with a little over two minutes to play in the game and seal the 24-14 win for the Orange and Blue.

 

The win over South Carolina completes Floridaís conference schedule. The Gators are back in action this weekend against Florida International University at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game is set for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

 

-UF-

 

                                                                                        

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