NCF Nation: Gainesville 0812

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A tearful Tim Tebow promised the Florida fans this back on Sept. 27.

 
 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Tim Tebow accounted for three scores as No. 4 Florida thrashed 25th-ranked South Carolina 56-6 Saturday.

Ole Miss had just come into the Swamp and shocked the Gators, and Tebow along with the rest of his teammates were struggling to find answers.

The Gators' Heisman Trophy winner didn't vow that they would win the rest of their games. He didn't guarantee that they would average 49.5 points along the way. He didn't promise that the Gators would put themselves in a position where they control their own destiny as far as getting to the BCS National Championship Game.

But he did promise that fans would see a different Florida football team the rest of the way.

"What I said was something I could control, and that was that we were going to play with a passion, an enthusiasm and love for the game like this university has never seen before," Tebow said. "I knew I could control beyond a shadow of a doubt my effort, our team's effort and the kind of intensity we play with.

"I said what I said to give our fans confidence and our team confidence that we were going to come out and play with the kind of effort and passion that we're playing with right now."

Call Tebow a prophet, because since that disappointing September day, there hasn't been a better or more complete team in college football.

The Gators are doing it with an offense that has scored 42 or more points in its last five games, but they're also doing it with a defense and special teams that are playing at a level that reminds everybody around here of the 2006 national championship team.

"The defense is making it easy for us," Tebow said.

The Gators were up 21-0 Saturday against South Carolina and only had to drive a total of 27 yards for those three touchdowns. Linebacker Brandon Spikes scored the first touchdown on a 12-yard interception return. The second touchdown came after Brandon Hicks tipped a pass, and Ahmad Black intercepted it. The Gators took over at the Gamecocks' 26, and Percy Harvin scored on the next play.

The third touchdown came after James Smith recovered South Carolina's errant lateral on a kickoff return at the 1-yard line.

"It's 1 yard, 26 yards and 14 yards," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "It's great defense and great special teams. Kids are buying in and making plays and causing a lot of short fields."

For Harvin, who scored on touchdown runs of 80 and 26 yards, he's starting to get used to taking it easy in the second half.

"I think I've played one series the last five or six games," Harvin said. "Just being on the sidelines in the second half and knowing you're beating teams like this is pretty cool. There's not a greater feeling."

The Gators have now outscored opponents 101-0 in the first quarter during their six-game winning streak. They've allowed just two first-half touchdowns all season.

"We were tired of hearing (the Gamecocks) were the SEC's No. 1 defense going against the SEC's No. 1 offense," Florida cornerback Joe Haden said. "We feel like we have the best defense in the SEC and wanted to come out and show that."

It's doubtful he'll get many arguments.

Gamecocks, Spurrier swamped

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
11:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 No. 4 Florida thumped South Carolina 56-6 Saturday, handing Steve Spurrier his worst loss in 90 games at Florida Field.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Steve Spurrier had been on the other end of so many of these at The Swamp.

His Florida teams not only beat teams here back in the 1990s, they embarrassed them, usually running them out of the stadium before most of the student section had made it back from the Purple Porpoise by the start of the second half.

The Head Ball Coach knows how it feels now.

The 56-6 beating his South Carolina team suffered Saturday at the hands of Florida was his worst as a head coach. As a player or coach at Florida, he'd previously never lost a game at The Swamp by more than 12 points.

Then again, Spurrier's not sure he ever faced a team quite like the one he faced Saturday, a team that's making its bid as the best in college football.

"We got pushed around on offense and couldn't find a play. Our quarterback play struggled. You add it all up and you get clobbered," Spurrier said of the Gators' fifth straight game in which they'd scored 42 or more points. "I don't know what we could have done differently, except try to keep it close."

The Gamecocks were down 21-0 before they even got to the second quarter and hung their defense out to dry with a pair of Chris Smelley interceptions and a turnover at their own 1-yard line after botching a throwback lateral on a kickoff return.

"Unfortunately our guy couldn't catch it. He couldn't even fall on it and they got it at the 1," Spurrier said. "That was a dumb play on my part."

In the end, it wouldn't have made much difference. As well as the Gamecocks have played all season on defense, they simply didn't have the talent to stay on the field with the Gators -- at least not with the way they're playing right now.

And certainly not with some of the holes the South Carolina offense put its defense in Saturday.

"We made our defense play the whole game and gave them way too many opportunities," said Spurrier, who rotated his quarterbacks on every play throughout much of the game.

Speaking to many of the Florida beat writers who covered him when he was coaching the Gators, Spurrier insisted that the 17-16 loss here two years ago hurt much worse. Florida blocked a last-second field goal to survive in 2006.

This time, the Gators simply overwhelmed the Gamecocks from the outset.

"I knew they had the capability of doing this. I've been watching them on TV," Spurrier said. "I told Urban (Meyer) that I hoped they go on a four-game winning streak. That's all they need to do now."

Asked if this run by the Gators reminded him of his 1996 national championship team at Florida, Spurrier cracked a little smile and showed some of the old swagger.

"Well, '95, '96. We had a lot of teams that did that," Spurrier said. "Yep, a lot of teams ... but not many recently."

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There was a glow about Florida coach Urban Meyer as he stood at the postgame podium Saturday.

His No. 4-ranked Gators had just shellacked South Carolina 56-6 at the Swamp, remaining college football's hottest team and handing Steve Spurrier the most lopsided loss of his illustrious head coaching career.

Admittedly, Meyer was awed -- by his team and by who was in the Gators' locker room afterward.

"Jimmy Buffett was in our locker room. Did you know that?" beamed Meyer, a huge Buffett fan.

"That's way up there. I don't get awed by many people, but that's a hell of a deal, man."

This just in: He's got a hell of a football team, too.

As Meyer answered questions about another awe-inspiring performance from his Gators, Buffett music could be heard playing in the Gators' locker room.

Buffett told the Florida team that he's anxious for the Gators (9-1, 7-1 SEC) to get to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game so that he could play for them.

That might sound a bit presumptuous given that Florida still has three games left to play, including the SEC Championship Game matchup with Alabama.

Then again, if you've watched the Gators play in their last six games, maybe it's not presumptuous at all.

Meyer said it's been like watching sharks in the water during a six-game winning streak that's seen Florida average 49.5 points and beat teams by an average margin of 39 points.

"Yeah, and we're swarming," Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes said.

The Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC) came into the game ranked third nationally in total defense and hadn't given up more than 24 points in a game all season. The Gators had 28 less than four minutes into the second quarter Saturday.

South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said it was the most complete team he's coached against this season "by far."

Florida scored its first two touchdowns thanks to a pair of interceptions by South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, the first one returned 12 yards for a touchdown by Spikes. The Gators' third touchdown came after the Gamecocks butchered a throwback lateral on a kickoff return.

Florida's long snapper, James Smith, was there to recover at the 1-yar line.

That's how it's been going lately for the Gators, who have scored 30 or more points against all of their SEC regular-season opponents for the first time in school history.

"I think they were embarrassed by the way they played at the end of the season last year," said Meyer, asked what's fueling this team right now. "They believe there's a lot of talent on this team. I don't see the selfish garbage I saw last year. They all block for each other. They all care about each other. The chemistry on this team borders on the phenomenal."

So does the performance.

(Read full post)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If there is any end in sight to this Florida onslaught, the No. 4 Gators didn't show any signs of it Saturday at the Swamp.

They also didn't show any mercy on the guy once renowned for running up the score on this same field.

The Head Ball Coach's return to his old stomping grounds was, well, a stomp.

Florida raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and won its sixth straight in convincing fashion, a 56-6 demolition of Steve Spurrier's No. 25-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Gators (9-1, 7-1 SEC) are now finished with their SEC tests until the SEC Championship Game showdown with Alabama on Dec. 6. They have a home game with The Citadel next weekend and then travel to Florida State on Nov. 29.

At this point, holding Florida under 40 points would be an accomplishment. The Gators have scored at least 42 points in their last five games.

Quarterback Tim Tebow, who threw a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown, was done two minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC) didn't play that poorly defensively in the first half, but wore down after being on the field so long and started giving up big plays.

Two first-quarter interceptions by South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, one returned for a touchdown by Brandon Spikes, opened the door for the Florida rout.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's offense took its turn in the third quarter Saturday.

The Gators, widening their lead to 42-6 in a game that was over a long time ago, ripped off two long touchdown plays against a South Carolina defense that is starting to look beaten down after hanging in there in the first half.

Percy Harvin shook loose for an 80-yard touchdown run on Florida's first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Jeffery Demps several minutes later broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and sprinted 38 yards for a touchdown.

It's been the formula for the Gators all season long. They hit you with big plays on offense and special teams and set up easy scores thanks to their defense.

Florida has now scored 30 points against every SEC regular-season opponent for the first time in school history.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- South Carolina's defensive ranking coming into this game (No. 3 nationally) suggested the Gamecocks were pretty good on defense.

They've played that way, too, but have nothing to show for it.

Florida leads 28-3 at the half, thanks to a pair of interceptions by South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley and a special teams gaffe by the Gamecocks.

The game was already getting away from South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier when the Gamecocks buried themselves with a botched throwback lateral on a kickoff return late in the first quarter.

At that point, you could sort of see the wind come out of South Carolina's sails defensively.

The Gators went ahead 28-0 early in the second quarter on Tim Tebow's 46-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson, who looked like he might have gotten away with a push-off.

People will look at this halftime score and think Florida's offense has gotten the best of South Carolina's defense. But that's not the case at all.

The Gamecocks simply haven't been able to block the Gators, and the two South Carolina quarterbacks haven't had time to throw. Spurrier has rotated Stephen Garcia and Smelley on just about every play in the first half.

For all the talk about Florida's high-scoring offense, the real story right now is the Gators' defense.

They've allowed just two first-half touchdowns all season, and what was an inexperienced, unproven defensive line to start the season just seems to get better and better. And then there's junior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who makes a game-changing play every week.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- This one had all makings of a scoreless first quarter.

But then Florida did what Florida has been doing for the last month and a half.

The Gators turned on the jets.

Capitalizing on a couple of horrible throws by South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, Florida scored three touchdowns in the final 4:37 of the quarter to take a 21-0 lead into the second quarter Saturday at the Swamp.

The Gamecocks' defense has stood its ground. It's not as if the Gators are running up and down the field against the South Carolina defense.

South Carolina simply hasn't been able to handle Florida's defensive pressure, and Smelley has been forced into two interceptions. The first was returned for a touchdown by Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. The second one set up a Florida touchdown on a 26-yard run by Percy Harvin.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier alternated quarterbacks on every snap in the first quarter, but the Gamecocks never found any rhythm. They finished with just 27 yards of total offense in the first quarter.

And anybody who thinks the first quarter doesn't belong to Florida right now might want to consider this statistic: The Gators in their last six games have outscored opponents 101-0 in the first quarter.

Spurrier back at the Swamp

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
2:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His last game here as Florida's coach was December 2001.

  

But am I the only one who still thinks it's strange to see Steve Spurrier at the Swamp ... and not on the Florida sideline?

The Head Ball Coach gets another shot at his alma mater Saturday. He had Florida beat in his last trip here as South Carolina's coach, but the Gators blocked a last-second field goal attempt to escape in 2006 and went on to win the national championship.

That would have been a huge upset. This would be a monumental upset, especially when you consider how well the Gators have played during their five-game winning streak.

During that span, there hasn't been a more complete team in the country.

The Gamecocks, though, have won six of their last seven games, and their defense is ranked third nationally. This will be the best overall defense the Gators have faced all season.

Look for South Carolina to put a spy on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and try to keep him in the pocket and not let him scramble if his receivers are covered. He's been able to pick up a lot of yardage that way the last several games.

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