GAINESVILLE — For most of the season, Florida has elected to defer to the second half if it won the opening-game toss. But on Saturday night, the Gators chose offense first.
And freshman Andre Debose made it pay off, returning the opening kickoff 99 yards to give the Gators a 7-0 lead.
It was the first time in Florida history a player has had two kickoff returns for scores in a season. Debose had an 88-yard return against LSU on Oct. 9.
And it was only the third time in school history a player has returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Stacey Simmons returned one 94 yards against Kentucky in 1987, and Bo Carroll returned one 94 yards against Arkansas in 1997.
Debose is the only freshman in the nation to have two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season.
BRINGING THE PRESSURE: With DT Melvin Ingram's second-quarter sack of John Brantley, South Carolina set a school record for a season with 33. The Gamecocks entered Saturday first in the SEC in sacks.
HEAVY ON RAINEY: WR Chris Rainey touched the ball seven times for 13 yards (1.9 yards per touch) in the first half. All other Florida skill players combined for 38 yards on seven touches (5.4 yards per touch).
LATTIMORE'S RECORD DAY: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore set the school record for rushing for a freshman in a season. Lattimore entered the game needing just 97 yards to surpass the record of 848 set by Thomas Dendy in 1982. He topped that in the third quarter.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: They were on opposing sides Saturday night, but Brantley and South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia are good friends.
When Florida defeated Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 31, Garcia called Brantley on his cell phone to congratulate him as the Gators headed back to Gainesville. Brantley said the two talk "quite often," and he considers Garcia a very good friend.
If things had gone a little differently, the two might have been teammates.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recruited Brantley, who said it was tough turning down the legendary coach.
"In a way, (it was hard) just because of the past. I'd grown up watching him coach and seeing him having success here," Brantley said.
"But I'm sure like he would say, 'Once you're a Gator, you're always a Gator.' And that's what I've been my entire life. … That made it easier to choose Florida over South Carolina."
NOT THE FIRST: Spurrier improved to 2-4 against his alma mater. But Spurrier's return to coach against his alma mater isn't as unusual as you might believe.
He is one of 14 Division I-A coaches this season who have faced or will face his alma mater. The others: Wisconsin's Bret Bielema (Iowa); Baylor's Art Briles (Texas Tech); Duke's David Cutcliffe (Alabama); Connecticut's Randy Edsall (Syracuse); Army's Rich Ellerson (Hawaii); Kansas' Turner Gill (Nebraska); Temple's Al Golden (Penn State); Marshall's Doc Holliday (West Virginia); Virginia's Mike London (Richmond); Mississippi's Houston Nutt (Arkansas); Washington's Steve Sarkisian (BYU); Arizona's Mike Stoops (Iowa) and Utah's Kyle Wittingham (BYU).