Gators win, first perfect SEC season since 1996

By Adam Silverstein
November 14, 2009

The No. 1 Florida Gators (10-0, 8-0 SEC) completed their first perfect Southeastern Conference season since 1996 with a 24-14 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5 SEC) in Columbia, SC, at Williams-Brice Stadium. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow accomplished a feat of his own on Saturday, tying the SEC touchdown record with a rushing score in the fourth quarter.

The Gators went up 7-0 early in the first quarter after Tebow threw a slant to wide receiver Riley Cooper who took it for 68 yards into the end zone. It would not take long for the Gamecocks to answer, as running back Brian Maddox capped a 14-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game. Florida kept up the pressure, adding a 32-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis and a 17-yard rushing score from redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody to take a 10-point lead with 10:28 left in the second quarter.

From there, things started to unravel for the Gators. After recovering a fumble, UF was hardly able to move the ball, and Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. The Gamecocks capitalized with another lengthy drive that resulted in a nine-yard passing touchdown from QB Stephen Garcia to tight end Weslye Saunders. Florida would then, on consecutive drives, punt twice, miss a 54-yard field goal and turn the ball over on downs after Tebow was stopped on a dive play around midfield.

With South Carolina threatening to score and in the middle of an 11-play, 49-yard drive that began at 6:29 in the third quarter, junior defensive tackle Justin Trattou intercepted a tipped pass thrown by Garcia and returned it 53 yards to the Gamecocks’ 26 yard line. The Gators would turn that miscue into Tebow’s record-tying score, going back up by 10 with a quarter to play. Struggling to get to Garcia all day, Florida’s defense – led by senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham – would record four of its six sacks in the fourth quarter. Junior cornerback Joe Haden (who also had two forced fumbles and 11 tackles on the day) intercepted Garcia and returned the ball 20 yards with 3:19 left to ice the game.

After the game, Gators head coach Urban Meyer called Trattou’s interception one of the greatest plays in Florida football history. Trattou, who is playing with a torn left biceps, was humble in accepting praise for his heads-up play. “Every week, someone has to step up,” Trattou said. “It’s usually someone different each week. Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was candid when discussing Trattou’s game-changing play. “That turnover took a lot of steam [out of us],” Spurrier said. “Give Florida credit. They played pretty well. I don’t know if by their standards they thought they played super.”

Florida finishes its 2009 regular season schedule with two consecutive nonconference games against the Florida International University Golden Panthers and Florida State Seminoles. The Gators will then head to Atlanta, GA, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.

Game Notes:
– South Carolina wore camouflage uniforms created by Under Armor to honor veterans hurt defending the United States as part of the Wounded Warrior Project. After his touchdown pass, Garcia saluted the crowd in keeping with the theme of the day.
– In addition to missing two field goals beyond 50 yards, Sturgis placed a kickoff out of bounds and pulled a 28-yard field goal wide left in the fourth quarter, finishing only one-for-four on the day.
– The Gamecocks attempted a fake punt in the first quarter that would have been successful save for an illegal shift penalty.
– Cooper had two additional scoring opportunities in the game, missing one catch that was slightly overthrown in the end zone and plainly dropping another in a similar spot.

5 Comments

  1. ReptilesRule says:

    Better find our offensive mojo in the next couple of games. We are not playing like #1 right now and Bama will destroy us in the Dome if we continue doing what we’re doing on O.

  2. Brittany says:

    Well it wasn’t pretty but it was still a win. I have a feeling that we will get our game together for the Bama game much like we did for the Georgia game.

  3. Mr2Bits says:

    Garcia saluted the crowd then taunted the Gator bench with the chomp, what was he “Dignity” or “Service” yesterday or something?

    It worries me that our defense is having to win games for us week after week while playing much less talented opponents. There is no reason we should only be winning by 10 points. What is going to happen if our defense as a down week?

    Adazzio is going to make me die young. He continues to run plays over and over and over again that are not working. Plays that do work(Moody, quick drop passes, etc.) are called once and filed away as if they were failures. Plays that don’t work are continually called as though Adazzio is committed to running the same garbage until it works, which in most cases it never does. I am at a loss of words when I watch how he is utilizing these players. I laughed my ass off when on 3rd and goal from the 7, we run the sweep option/shuffle pass to Hernandez. Of course it goes nowhere and all the CBS commentators said “Wow, USC and everyone knew that play was coming and shut it down”. This of course only following the 4th and Tebow that continues to not work week after week. It is almost as though we refuse/forget how to throw the ball when we get into the red-zone. I’d like to see our pass/run play calling numbers in the red-zone because I think it’s something like 3 run plays for every pass.

    Us being starting in USC territory and ming away with points 1 out of 5 times is absolutely atrociousness. Sturgis really stunk it up out there which is very disappointing going into the SEC Championship where their kicker is not missing(especially 28 yard fg’s).

    Cooper, well how many TD’s passes can this guy drop this season? Week after week it seems he makes miraculous catches and drops the ones that hit him right in the hands. Tebow is really starting to piss me off with his refusal to throw the damn ball away when he is under pressure. He is showing very little advancement in his game and is continuing to regress week after week.

    Overall grade of C+ for us this week.

  4. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    It’s great to be a Florida Gator….we are seeing a run we will probably never see again…yeh the offense is struggling and yeh we should have won that game by 20 but we are still winning and our defense is awesome….we have been complaining about them not going long and we took a couple of shots yesterday and just missed on both….I do wonder where Deonte has gone….in fact where is any WR outside of Cooper….the one play Tebow took the huge sack on I was like he held it too long that was on him and then they show the field and everyone was covered….wait a minute I keep forgetting we are still winning….GO GATORS

  5. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    The other thing that makes this such a good time is how pathetic the Noles and Canes are right now….I LOVE IT

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