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Special teams superb

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp knows his team has little margin for error.
The Gators don't have an explosive offense. It's a grind-it-out unit that has a better chance of putting a 10-play scoring drive together than a three-play scoring drive. But that's OK with Muschamp, because the Gators have a good defense and very good special teams.

The latter is the key to widening the error margin.

"When you play like we do you better be good in special teams and you better have good specialists," Muschamp said. "You better have a punter that can flip the field and coverage units that can handle that. And you've got to have a field goal kicker that can take points."

Check, check and check -- and Georgia, Missouri and Florida State better be paying attention.

South Carolina apparently wasn't, because Florida's special teams essentially won the game for the Gators on Saturday afternoon. They forced three fumbles (the Gamecocks recovered one), blocked a field goal, finally got Andre Debose loose in the return game, and owned the field-position battle because of punter Kyle Christy.

Sharrif Floyd blocked Adam Yates' 45-yard field goal attempt. Trey Burton forced punt returner Ace Sanders to fumble and recovered the ball at the South Carolina 29 to set up a touchdown. Solomon Patton forced kickoff returner Damiere Byrd to fumble and Chris Johnson returned the ball to the 1 to set up another touchdown.

All in the second quarter.

Christy helped the Gators throughout the game with huge punts. He averaged 54.3 yards on seven punts -- all of which traveled at least 51 yards.

"We put a lot of emphasis on [special teams]," Muschamp said. "We meet a lot. We spend in every practice a minimum of 25 minutes on special teams strictly. We usually concentrate on two units per day and punt team every day, so we spend a lot of time. What you emphasize is what's important and going into the season I knew we have good team speed, we have good specialists, we have good returners."

That will be a factor with Georgia, which has been inconsistent on special teams. The Bulldogs have blocked three kicks and has returned one kickoff for a touchdown (Todd Gurley), but they're last in the league in net punting, seventh in kickoff coverage, and kicker Marshall Morgan has missed four PATs and has attempted just six field goals (he's made five).

Those are areas in which the Gators will have a clear advantage on Saturday. Christy leads the nation in punting (47.9 average) and Caleb Sturgis is tied for the SEC lead with 12 field goals.

"There's no question I've got tremendous confidence in both guys," Muschamp said. "I wouldn't trade them for anybody."

The Gators have had problems, too. They had a PAT blocked and returned for two points on Saturday and Debose is still having trouble deciding whether or not to field punts, but UF is giving up only 1.8 yards per punt return and only 18.8 yards per kickoff return.

"We need to play well on special teams and we have," Muschamp said.