Tebow, Gators close an SEC chapter with Spurrier

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tim Tebow couldn't have come up with a more satisfying way to wind up a chapter of his Southeastern Conference career, in front of fellow a Florida Heisman Trophy winner and a coach he respects.

On Saturday, Tebow and the No. 1 Gators face South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier, a Florida alum, star player and national championship coach. It's the last regular-season SEC contest for Florida's current star passer and an opportunity for the Gators' (9-0, 7-0) first perfect season in league play since Spurrier's team did it in 1996.

"It's cool," said Tebow, whose Heisman came in 2007, 41 years after Spurrier's. "It's the last SEC game and it's vs. coach Spurrier, who's done so much for the SEC, changed the SEC in a lot of different ways."

Tebow's changed the SEC the past few years, too, from his welcome-to-the-SEC jump pass to beat LSU in 2006 to surpassing Georgia great Herschel Walker as the league's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.

In between, came national championships at the end of the 2006 and 2008 seasons, with the Gators on another quest to reach the top this fall.

Tebow's shown it all against the Gamecocks through the years.

He most likely wrapped up the Heisman in 2007 against them, accounting for 424 yards and seven touchdowns in a 51-31 victory.

Tebow didn't have to work as hard last fall, with three TDs in Florida's 56-6 win over the 24th-ranked Gamecocks.

Along the way, Tebow's enjoyed getting to know Spurrier.

"There's some sort of special relationship there," Tebow said.

For his part, Spurrier says Tebow is one of the college game's best ever. "Sometimes his passes may not look as pretty as some of those other guys, but he has a knack for getting it there," Spurrier said. "And I think without a doubt (he's) the best third-down quarterback that maybe has played."

Gamecock defensive tackle Nathan Pepper says the players were hurt and embarrassed by last year's clobbering and hope to give a better account of themselves this time around.

"We didn't really have a chance to really get into it before they were already pretty much going off with the game," he said. "Yeah, we definitely remember what happened last year."

It'll likely take the Gamecocks best effort all season to stay in this one.

While Florida hasn't put up the unworldly offensive numbers it did last fall, it's still second in the SEC at more than 35 points a game. The Gator defense leads the country in points allowed at just over 10, a figure South Carolina's struggled to get past its last four games.

The Gamecocks were 5-1 and ranked No. 22 before facing second-ranked Alabama on Oct. 17. Since then, they've scored 6, 14, 13 and 16 points, going 1-3 over that stretch and sending fans over the edge about another late-season swoon.

Spurrier said this week he'd return as the team's principal playcaller after ceding much of that duty to son Steve Jr., the past two seasons.

Spurrier hopes to correct his team's ability to move between the 20s before bogging down near the end zone.

He thought the offense played as well as it had in a while at Arkansas last week, but mistakes cost it scoring opportunities in the 33-16 loss.

"Usually to upset a team you really have to maximize your scoring chances. We didn't do it at Alabama, we didn't do it last week and if we can do that you have a chance against those teams," Spurrier said.

Florida coach Urban Meyer just wants his team thinking about South Carolina, not about its attempt at more history with the unbeaten SEC season.

"We don't do that stuff around here," Meyer said. "It's just trying to play a little better defense and score in the red zone. We don't have time to reflect. That's going to be a good deal someday. But that's the beautiful thing about this: Our kids don't know that."

This game also features a tribute, backed by Under Armour and The Wounded Warrior Project, honoring U.S. veterans and those injured protecting America. South Carolina players will wear camouflage jerseys with core values like "Duty," "Honor," and "Courage" on the back instead of names.

Some game jerseys will be auctioned off with part of the proceeds donated to The Wounded Warrior Project.


AP Sports Writer Mark Long from Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.