This time, it's Trattou's turn for Gators

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- This time, it wasn’t Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez or even Joe Haden.

Nope, the guy who turned this game in Florida’s favor -- in what’s becoming vintage Gator football 2009 -- was a guy that some weren’t even sure would be able to make it through the season.

Junior defensive end Justin Trattou had his biceps tendon ripped off the bone in his left shoulder in the Arkansas game back on Oct. 17.

There was some concern that he might be done for the season, and if he did come back, there was no guarantee that he would be able to tolerate the pain.

“He had an injury that many people, when it happened, said was a four, five or six-week injury,” Florida coach Urban Meyer said. “But he called me and said, ‘I’m going to play (two weeks later) against Georgia.

“We have some guys on our team who have that kind of mentality. Obviously, Tim (Tebow) gets a lot of recognition, but we have a bunch of guys on our team who are fighting through injuries and playing very well.

Trattou’s prognosis was right.

He ended up missing just one game, and it’s a good thing for the Gators that he was on the field Saturday. His interception and 53-yard return on the first play of the fourth quarter changed the entire complexion of the game and sent the Gators on their way to a 24-14 win over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“It was a tremendous play. It will go down in history and should go in some book somewhere,” Meyer said.

And, really, it’s the kind of play championship teams make. The Gators were clinging to a 17-14 lead to open the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks were threatening with a third-and-3 at the 22, and the crowd was sensing upset.

The Gators, though, were sensing that it was time to make a play.

“That’s what we do,” Trattou said. “We put it on each other to make a play. We expect to make those plays. It’s usually somebody different every week. We’ve been doing it all year, and we’ve got to continue doing it.”

The pain associated with his injury isn’t nearly as bad as it once was, but even right after it happened, Trattou never once considered taking any lengthy time away from the game for it to fully heal.

“The only thing that was going to keep me out was surgery,” Trattou said. “If it was a matter of dealing with a little pain here and there, that wasn’t going to keep me out.”

When the ball was thrown Saturday, Trattou was actually on the ground. He’d been cut block by one of the Gamecocks’ offensive linemen, but saw the ball bounce off South Carolina receiver Moe Brown’s hands up into the air.

It looked like it was in slow motion.

“I got back up, and there it was,” Trattou said. “I thought I was going to score, but I stumbled.”

He was finally tackled at the South Carolina 26, and four plays later, Tebow vaulted in for the touchdown to make it a 10-point lead.

At that point, it might as well have been 40 points.

“That was the dagger,” Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “The interception was one thing, but the return helped the most. He was running like he was getting chased by a dog.”

Torn biceps tendon and all.