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Florida Gators seek revenge against Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier got a victory ride and a spot in the SEC title game after his last visit to the Swamp.

Associated Press (2010)

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier got a victory ride and a spot in the SEC title game after his last visit to the Swamp.

GAINESVILLE — Two years ago Florida defensive back Josh Evans and his teammates stood and watched as South Carolina players doused coach Steve Spurrier with Gatorade, then carried him to midfield as the Gamecocks celebrated their first SEC East championship.

In the Swamp. At Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

No. 9 South Carolina returns to Gainesville today for a showdown with the No. 3 Gators — teams with undefeated SEC East records trying to retain control of their destiny to the title.

With the memory of 2010 still fresh for some.

"It's definitely revenge, man," said Evans, now a senior. "You also want to go out there and just get this win. It would mean a lot to this team, and the roll we're on this year, we're trying to stay undefeated."

There are multiple story lines today: avenging the 2010 loss and ending a two-game losing streak to the Gamecocks; the return of Spurrier, a Gator legend who Florida coach Will Muschamp grew up admiring and once hoped to play for; the resurgence of Florida's program and its effort to prove a 6-0 start is no fluke.

But ultimately, it comes down to this: two wins to an East title and a berth in the SEC championship game.

"At the end of the day, we're about winning championships here at Florida," Muschamp said. "And it's another step to Atlanta. That's the way I look at it."

The winner will have the upper hand in the East with two conference games remaining. For Spurrier, the man who won a Heisman Trophy as a Gator quarterback, then led them to six SEC championships and their first national title in 1996, this is no time to be nostalgic. He is here to beat the Gators — it's just that simple.

"We realize it's an extremely important game down there in the Swamp," Spurrier said. "Hopefully our guys will be ready to play their best one of the year. Florida obviously is playing very well, got a lot of momentum going. It's a huge game for both teams. If we're going to win the division, we'll still have to beat Florida to have a shot to do it. … I certainly hope the Gators finish second in the East this year, that would be a good finish for them. And hopefully we finish first, certainly."

For the majority of last season and the early part of this year, the Gator players have stuck to the "nameless/faceless" mantra preached by Muschamp. It's the theory that every game is the same, its only importance being the next. But the Gators recognize they are, for the first time since 2009, in a title hunt. And for some older players who know what that's like, it's a welcome feeling.

"I mean, having the stadium packed, especially the (Oct. 6) LSU game it got pretty loud," senior receiver Frankie Hammond, said. "It definitely brought back memories of my freshman and sophomore year here. It's getting back, but we've got to take it a game at a time and just more forward from there. Us being at home and having our fans, that's where we want to be. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage. They've helped us a lot this season as far as crowd noise, disrupting things."

"Campus seems a little bit fired up right now with South Carolina and Coach Spurrier coming back, you know, and with GameDay (broadcasting from Gainesville)," senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "I don't think we've had GameDay here in a long time. It's definitely a different feel going around campus."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

. FAST FACTS

Spurrier vs. Florida

Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier is 3-4 vs. his alma mater:

2005: SOUTH CAROLINA 30, FLORIDA 22: In his first game against UF, Spurrier crushed its SEC title hopes. Florida's 14-game winning streak over the Gamecocks ended.

2006: FLORIDA 17, SOUTH CAROLINA, 16: In the most exciting game in this series with Spurrier at the helm, 6-foot-6 junior DE Jarvis Moss blocked a 48-yard field goal by Ryan Succop as time expired to preserve victory en route to a national title.

2007: NO. 17 FLORIDA 51, SOUTH CAROLINA 31: Sophomore QB Tim Tebow rushed for a career-high five touchdowns, threw for two and had 424 yards in total offense.

2008: NO. 3 FLORIDA 56, SOUTH CAROLINA 6: Percy Harvin had a career day with 167 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Tebow added 173 passing yards and two touchdowns.

2009: NO. 1 FLORIDA 24, SOUTH CAROLINA 14: After giving up 14 first-half points, the Florida defense held South Carolina scoreless in the second half . Senior WR Riley Cooper had three receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown.

2010: NO. 23 SOUTH CAROLINA 36, NO. 22 FLORIDA 14: South Carolina freshman RB Marcus Lattimore rushed a career-high 40 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns.

2011: SOUTH CAROLINA 17, FLORIDA 12: With Lattimore out hurt, freshman RB Brandon Wilds ran for 120 yards and QB Connor Shaw rushed for a then career-high 88 and two TDs.

Florida Gators seek revenge against Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks 10/19/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 10:54pm]
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