(Saturday, November 15th)
Final Score: (3) Florida 56, (24) South Carolina 6
Gainesville, FL (Sports Network) - Percy Harvin rushed for a career-high 167 yards and two touchdowns on a mere eight carries, as No. 3 Florida further solidified itself as a national title contender with a 56-6 thumping of Steve Spurrier's 24th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
Tim Tebow rushed for a touchdown and threw two more while compiling 173 passing yards on 13-of-20 throws for Florida (9-1, 7-1 SEC), which closed out its conference schedule with six consecutive lopsided victories. After a home loss to Ole Miss on September 27, the Gators outscored their opponents, 299-63, a differential of 39.3 points per game.
It was the worst loss in the history of Spurrier's playing or coaching career and it came against the team he once proudly led.
Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey each scored while adding 43 and 55 yards on the ground, respectively, and Deonte Thompson caught three balls for 66 yards and a score for the Gators, who outgained the Gamecocks, 519-173.
Before taking on top-ranked Alabama in a highly anticipated SEC title game on December 6, Florida has a tuneup with Citadel next Saturday before closing out its regular season against No. 20 Florida State.
"This was a great win. I'm very pleased," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said. "The defense played phenomenal."
The quarterback carousel of Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia failed to yield much offense for South Carolina (7-4, 4-4), which went 1-for-15 on third-down conversions en route to snapping a two-game win streak. Smelley threw for 92 yards on 13-of-24 passes with two interceptions, while Garcia hit 6-of-13 attempts for 28 yards and a pick.
Eric Baker was the Gamecocks' leading rusher with 23 yards on six carries, as former Gators coach Spurrier fell to 1-3 with South Carolina against his alma mater.
Florida's defense was the catalyst behind a 21-point spurt that spanned two minutes, 15 seconds late in the first quarter.
On 3rd-and-5 at his own 13, Smelley was pressured in the end zone and threw off his back foot directly to Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes, who promptly returned the pick 12 yards for a touchdown at the 4:37 mark of the first.
Smelley's next pass attempt, designed as a quick wide receiver screen, was tipped by Florida linebacker Brandon Hicks at the line of scrimmage. Ahmad Black came down with the interception and returned it seven yards to the USC 26, and Harvin ran it right up the middle on the next play for a quick TD.
Spurrier's infamous bag of tricks backfired on the ensuing kickoff. The Gamecocks' Dion LeCorn received the boot in the end zone, ran it out to the 10 and threw a lateral pass to teammate Chris Hail at the left hash mark. Hail mistimed his jump on the high pass, and Florida's James Smith picked up the loose ball at the goal line. After two failed attempts to punch it in, Tebow lowered his shoulder and got in the end zone and the Gators suddenly led 21-0.
"We got royally beat," Spurrier said. "Our defense played their hearts out in the first half. Our offense gave up two scores and then we tried the ill- advised throwback pass...We got pushed around on offense. We couldn't find a play."
South Carolina recorded just one first down in the opening quarter and couldn't capitalize on a pair of early Florida fumbles.
In the second frame, Tebow went deep down the right sideline to Thompson, who got away with a slight pushoff and hauled in a 46-yard score at the 11:17 mark.
South Carolina finally got on the board with a Ryan Succop 41-yard field goal with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Harvin ended South Carolina's slim hope of a miraculous comeback on the first play from scrimmage after the break. The speedster took a handoff, countered into a big hole on the left side, broke a tackle and outran the secondary for an 80-yard sprint to increase the lead to 35-3.
"The coaches noticed the counter was effective all day," Harvin said. "I scored on a counter in the first half and we came back to it [to start the second half]. Aaron Hernandez had a great block and I took it the distance."
Succop's 44-yard field goal on the Gamecocks' next possession did little to stymie Florida's offensive attack.
Demps scampered his way into the end zone from 38 yards out midway through the third, and Aaron Hernandez hauled in a one-handed grab from Tebow in the left corner of the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to end the starters' big day.
Rainey's three-yard TD jaunt with 5 1/2 minutes remaining capped off yet another dominating effort on both sides of the ball for the Gators.
Florida is 12-0 against South Carolina in Gainesville...Harvin has scored in 12 straight games...The Gators own a commanding 22-4-3 lead in the all-time series...South Carolina finishes its regular season November 29 at Clemson... Spurrier compiled a 122-27-1 record as head coach of Florida, which included a national title in 1996...It was the first time in college football history a Heisman Trophy winner (Tebow, 2007) played against a coach who also won college's most coveted individual trophy (Spurrier, 1966).
11/16 02:16:03 ET