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. Alex Faedo, Florida advance to face LSU in College World Series finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 71/3 innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

    Florida’s Austin Langworthy scores on a single by Mike Rivera in the second inning during a 3-0 victory over TCU.
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It was refreshing to see RHP Jacob Faria take the blame after the loss even though he gave the Rays a chance to win. Too often young pitchers are encouraged by what they did and not necessarily the outcome, but Faria, making just his fourth big-league start, came to the Trop to win, didn't, and pointed the finger …