When Steve Spurrier joined the University of South Carolina in 2005, his decision had an impact not only on the program, but the rest of the SEC as well. The national profile, prominence and, more importantly, win total has all increased dramatically for the Gamecocks. A new rivalry has also been ignited between South Carolina and Spurrier’s alma matter, the University of Florida.
The Gators, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, lead the all-time series 24-6-3 with Saturday’s 44-11 win. Since 1990, Steve Spurrier himself has the best record against South Carolina, going 12-0 against the Gamecocks in his time as the face of the Florida Gators football program. Conversely, he has only managed a 3-4 record against Florida while in Columbia. Ron Zook, who could hardly beat a fly in his three seasons at the helm, has the next-best record at 3-0, followed Urban Meyer at 4-2 and Will Muschamp at 1-1.
The Gators’ first game against the Spurrier-led Gamecocks was a 2005 match-up in Columbia. Ranked 12th, the Gators blew away South Carolina in total yards (359 to 246) and time-of-possession (34:10 to 25:50), two key statistics that generally predict a victory. Turnovers and penalties would prove costly, however, as the Gators had 11 penalties for 86 yards and a Chris Leak interception. The Ol’ Ball Coach’s first game against his alma matter was a 30-22 victory over Florida.
The following year, Florida would exact revenge on their new rival in a last-second thriller. The Gators had solid contributions on the offensive side of the ball, with Leak going off for an efficient 19-for-27 with 254 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The running game amassed 147 yards behind Deshawn Wynn, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and Leak. However, the defense made the final statement, with Jarvis Moss blocking a 48-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to give the Gators a 17-16 win.
[Check out Moss' season-saving play right here]
2007′s contest was Tim Tebow’s statement game en route to his Heisman season. The quarterback seemingly did it all at Williams-Bryce Stadium, going 22-for-32 with 304 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Tebow also carried the ball 26 times for 120 yards and five touchdowns. The Gators would win their second straight game against South Carolina, 51-31.
The 2008 season saw the National Champion Gators blow the doors off any and all of their regular-season opponents, and South Carolina would succumb to the Gators’ punishment as well, losing 56-6 and handing Spurrier his worst loss at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida put up 519 total yards of offense while holding South Carolina to 173 and forcing four turnovers.
2009 would provide Gator Nations with their team’s third-straight victory over Spurrier’s Gamecocks, as the top-ranked Gators won 24-14. Wide reciever Riley Cooper had three receptions for 112 yards, while cornerback Joe Haden and defensive end Justin Trattou had one interception a piece.
2010 saw the tide turn against the Gators in the form of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. The freshman running back carved through the Gators’ defense, carrying the ball 40 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns including two key scores in the second half to give South Carolina a 36-14 victory in what would be Urban Meyer’s final season at Florida.
Last season, South Carolina won its second-straight game against Florida, 17-12. It was the first time Florida would not score a touchdown against a Spurrier-led team. The victory would also be the first time South Carolina won six conference games since joining the SEC in 1992.
Spurrier’s gentlemen would not have the same success this season, and it is almost entirely their own fault. It is pretty tough for a defensive unit, even one boasting the likes of superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, to stop an SEC offense when you fumble the football at your own two-yard line. Three more turnovers later, and despite a 191-183 total yardage advantage, the Gamecocks had been blown away, 44-11, as previously mentioned.
The future of this ever-developing rivalry remains to be seen, of course, but for at least one more season, the Gators had the last laugh against the coach that carried his alma mater to prominence.
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