Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators defense makes big plays to kick off romp

GAINESVILLE — No. 3 Florida's offense was struggling. The punt blocks that had become routine were nonexistent. For the first 10:23, the Gators were being shut out.

Forty-five seconds later, the game's momentum had shifted.

Brandon Spikes and Ahmad Black made interceptions on back-to-back South Carolina possessions Saturday to jolt the Gators en route to a 56-6 rout of the No. 24 Gamecocks.

Spikes returned his for a touchdown from 12 yards out. Black's led to a score on Florida's next offensive play when Percy Harvin ran it in from 26 yards.

"In the Swamp, if you make a mistake, we'll make you pay for it," Spikes said.

Both turnovers were set up by linebacker Brandon Hicks, who switched from weakside to strongside just last week. Hicks played strongside last season but had to reprise his role because of an injury to Tampa native A.J. Jones.

On third and 5 in the first quarter, the sophomore pressured quarterback Chris Smelley into throwing off his back foot as Hicks closed in on him in the end zone. Spikes snatched the ball out of the air and scampered untouched into the end zone.

The next time South Carolina had the ball, Hicks was back at it. He blitzed off the right edge and threw up his arms as Smelley attempted to pass.

The ball grazed Hicks' hands and into the waiting arms of Black, who collected his team-leading sixth interception.

"The sky's the limit with him," Spikes said of Hicks. "You really don't know what he can do. As the season progresses, he's turned into a really dependable guy."

This all from a defense that felt it had something to prove despite going in fourth nationally in points allowed (11.9). Coaches and media instead talked about South Carolina's defense, which entered leading the SEC and No. 3 in the country in total defense (256.5 yards per game).

"We heard about that all week," Hicks said. "They came out saying they were the best defense (in the SEC), and we felt like we had something to prove and show America that we're the best defense."

Florida allowed only 173 yards, forced 10 punts and held the Gamecocks to 1-of-15 on third-down conversions.

Now the comparisons have begun between this Gators defense and the one two years ago that played an integral part in a national title.

"We're just playing out of our minds right now," cornerback Joe Haden said.

Florida Gators defense makes big plays to kick off romp 11/15/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers-Bills Turning Point, Week 7: How does a receiver get that wide open?

    Bucs

    A lot can go wrong in the time it takes you to walk from your couch to the refrigerator.

    [NFL Game Pass]
  2. Lightning needs to hold onto Sergachev

    Blogs

    Here’s hoping the Lightning holds onto Mikhail Sergachev.

    Mikhail Sergachev has scored his first three NHL goals in his last two NHL games.
  3. Rick and Tom podcast: Defensively, Bucs have regressed to early 2016 stages

    Bucs

    The Bucs lose another game they should have won because in less than a minute they went from everything is back on track to blowing it. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the …

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) is pressured by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Abominable Bucs Missing Their Chance

    Blogs

    Of course, they can still win the division.

    They can still make the playoffs.

    Another Sunday, another celebration for the other guys
  5. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]