UF hands ex-coach Spurrier worst loss at The Swamp in 90 games
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Ol' Ball Coach never experienced anything like this.
Not as a player. Not as a coach. Not at Florida. Not at Duke. Not at South Carolina. Not even with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits or with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins.
Percy Harvin ran for a career-high 167 yards and two touchdowns, Tim Tebow accounted for three scores and No. 4 Florida thrashed 25th-ranked South Carolina 56-6 Saturday, handing Steve Spurrier the worst loss of his playing or coaching career.
"A loss is a loss, whether it's by one point or 50 points," said Spurrier, who fell to 81-9 as a player and coach at Florida Field. "Sometimes getting your butt beat real good is better than a one-pointer or two-pointer."
The Gators won their sixth in a row and kept their national title hopes alive by beating the Gamecocks for the 16th time in the last 17 years. The 50-point drubbing was South Carolina's worst loss since falling 63-7 to Spurrier's Gators in 1995.
Not even a few visor tosses would have helped Spurrier in this one.
"We got clobbered," Spurrier said. "I don't know what we could have done differently except try to keep things close."
Florida finished with its most rushing yards (346) since 1989 and became the first team to win six straight SEC games by at least 28 points.
The Gators (9-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) scored three touchdowns in eight plays in the first quarter, capitalizing on three consecutive turnovers by South Carolina (7-4, 4-4), and put the game away when Harvin went 80 yards for a score on the opening play of the third.
Brandon Spikes started the scoring barrage when he intercepted Chris Smelley's pass -- the quarterback was under heavy pressure from linebacker Brandon Hicks -- and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown.
"If there was a play of the game, that was it," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.
Two plays later, Hicks tipped Smelley's pass in the flat. Ahmad Black picked that one off, and Harvin darted up the middle for a 26-yard score on the next snap.
Smelley finished 13-of-24 for 92 yards. He alternated plays with Stephen Garcia, but neither was effective. Garcia was 6-of-13 for 28 yards with an interception.
The Gamecocks tried a little trickery on the ensuing kickoff, but Dion LeCorn's lateral across the field went over Chris Hail's outstretched arms. Florida's James Smith scooped it up at the 3 and nearly scored. Hail tackled him just shy of the goal line.
Tebow took it from there, scoring his 11th rushing touchdown of the season and putting the Gators ahead 21-0.
Tebow made it 28-0 in the second when he hooked up with Deonte Thompson for a 46-yard score down the sideline. The Heisman Trophy winner finished 13-of-20 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 39 yards. He lofted a 5-yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez on the first play of the fourth, then turned things over to backup John Brantley the rest of the way.
"I can handle a few more of those," Tebow said.
Tebow didn't trounce South Carolina's defense like he did a year ago, when he had 120 yards rushing and a school-record five touchdowns to go along with 304 yards passing and two more scores in the 51-31 victory. He didn't have to, either.
Harvin did that. Harvin didn't play in Columbia last year because of migraine headaches, but handed the Gamecocks two games worth of frustration Saturday.
He ran just eight times, but averaged 20.9 yards a carry and surpassed his previous career high (165 yards) set against Michigan in the Capital One Bowl in January.
"If he was a tailback on somebody else's team, he'd be a 200-yards-a-game guy," Spurrier said.
Harvin did it against the nation's third-ranked defense, too. South Carolina led the SEC in total defense, allowing just 256.5 yards a game, and ranked third in scoring defense (15.6 points a game) and second against the run (101.4 yards a game).
The Gamecocks also hadn't given up more than 24 points in any game, and all three of their losses were by seven points.
"We heard about that all week. They came out saying they were the best defense," Hicks said. "We felt like we had something to prove, to show America we're the best defense no matter who's in -- backups or starters."
Spurrier and Meyer met at midfield after the beatdown, and Meyer said Spurrier told him, "Good luck. Go on a four-game winning streak."
Four more wins would probably give the Gators a third national championship, and their second in three years.
"This team is a lot better than the one two years ago," said Spurrier, whose previous worst loss in Gainesville was a 33-21 setback in 1993 against rival and eventual national champion Florida State. "This team they have now is a lot stronger than that one in my opinion."
2022 Southeastern Conference Standings