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Rex Grossman dives into the end zone for one of the Gators' touchdowns.

Saturday November 10, 2001Football Rolls to 54-17 Win at #14 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC

Rex Grossman dives into the end zone for one of the Gators' touchdowns.

The third ranked Florida Gators spotted South Carolina a 7-0 lead then roared back to score 44 unanswered points enroute to a 54-17 win over the Gamecocks Saturday night in Columbia. Rex Grossman threw three touchdown passes and sneaked in for a fourth as the Gators moved to within one victory of claiming the SEC East title.

The Gators fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter after the Gamecocks recovered a Lito Sheppard fumbled punt. Derek Watson scored from seven yards out on the first play after the turnover to give South Carolina the early lead. After Jeff Chandler and Daniel Weaver exchanged field goals, the Gators went on a 44-0 run.

Florida receiver Jabar Gaffney tied the game 10-10 when he caught an 11 yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman with 1:44 left in the first quarter. Gaffney says the team never panicked after getting behind 7-0. "Coach (Spurrier) always tells us it's a 60 minute game", said Gaffney in the postgame radio interview. "They got up kind of early. I guess they kind of relaxed a little bit. We just played a four-quarter game and that's what happens".

Grossman's one yard plunge gave the Gators a 17-10 second quarter lead. Jeff Chandler booted a 36 yard field goal to add to the lead, 20-10. However, the play that sharply turned the momentum of the game towards the Gators was Marquand Manuel's interception of a Phil Petty pass on the next South Carolina possession. It set up Grossman 11-yard touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell that gave Florida a 27-10 lead with 26 seconds to play in the first half. Defensive end Alex Brown got his hand on the ball while rushing Petty, forcing the key turnover.

Jeff Chandler booted a pair of field goals - from 44 and 46 yards out - and Travis Carroll got the first touchdown of his college career as the Gators opened up a 40-10 lead after three quarters. Carroll intercepted a Phil Petty pass and returned it 24 yards for the touchdown.

Grossman and backup Brock Berlin closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter. Grossman hit Jabar Gaffney on a 59-yard touchdown pass, his third of the game. The sophomore from Bloomington, Indiana now has 30 touchdown passes. He finished 21 out of 33 for 302 yards. It's the ninth straight game in which Grossman has surpassed the 300 yard passing mark. Berlin threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kirk Wells.

So dominate was the Gator offense that punter Matt Leach didn't punt one time. Florida outgained South Carolina 482-264 and scored on all nine of its offensive possessions.

The Gator defense, meanwhile, in addition to the two interceptions, sacked the quarterback twice and held South Carolina to seven pass completions and just 57 passing yards.

Gator coach Steve Spurrier was very pleased with his team's performance. "I'm really proud of the team. Like I told (South Carolina) coach Lou Holtz, I think maybe it was the best we've played thus far this year. If we can keep that up we're going to be hard to beat".

With the win, the Gators are now 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the SEC. South Carolina falls to 7-3 overall and 5-3 in league play. Florida can clinch a berth in the SEC Championship game with a win December first against Tennessee. Next Saturday November 17th, the Gators host their instate rivals, Florida State. It's an 8:00 p.m. kickoff from "the Swamp" in Gainesville.

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