There are many opponents on South Carolina’s schedule that own lopsided advantages in the overall series record against the Gamecocks. But often times, the record itself doesn’t tell the full story of the close matchups, heartbreaking finishes, and overall competitiveness of the series in the last twenty years or so.
Florida isn’t one of those opponents.
We’ve earned two consecutive victories over the Gators, a dominating 36-14 performance in Gainesville in 2010 that gave USC its first SEC East title and a gritty 17-12 win at Williams-Brice last season. Those two wins are one-third of South Carolina’s victories all-time against the Gators, who own a commanding 23-6-3 edge in this series that dates back to 1911.
The Gamecocks won games against Florida in 1913, 1936, 1939, and 2005, and tied the Gators in 1911, 1921, and 1931. That’s it. Florida’s average margin of victory in the series? 22.0 points. Since the teams began playing annually with Carolina’s move to the SEC in 1992, the margin has risen to 24.0. Three times the Gamecocks have kept the final score within ten points–twice the Gators have pushed the final margin over 50.
This series just hasn’t been all that competitive over its history. But one game sticks out to me as the most interesting between these two teams, and was also one of the most painful losses I’ve ever experienced as a Gamecock fan. It’s known as simply The Jarvis Moss Game.
The Visor’s return to The Swamp
Steve Spurrier certainly carved a name for himself in Gainesville. But I guess that’s what happens when all you do is win a Heisman Trophy as a player, then come back and take a program with next to no history and coach them to a national championship, 7 SEC championships, and a 68-5 record at home in one of the most intimidating atmospheres in college football, which, oh by the way, you created the iconic nickname for. Spurrier left his alma mater in 2001 after 12 seasons at the helm for a brief foray into the NFL, an experiment that ended after just two seasons with the Washington Redskins.
Spurrier took a year off from coaching, but was looking to get back into the college game by 2004. Florida’s patience ran out with Ron Zook, and Spurrier was interested in returning to his old post. When he and Florida AD Jeremy Foley got in contact about the opening, however, Foley reportedly told him he could submit an application. Spurrier felt that his application was written in the championships and Heisman Trophies commemorated on the stadium walls and in its trophy case. Florida hired Urban Meyer, while Spurrier took over for the retiring Lou Holtz at South Carolina.
He faced his alma mater for the first time in 2005, coming away with a shocking 30-22 victory for South Carolina’s first win over the Gators since 1939. The scene in 2006, marking Spurrier’s first return to The Swamp as a head coach, was raucous. Spurrier had been one of the original four inductees into Florida’s Ring of Honor earlier in the season, even traveling to Gainesville during South Carolina’s open weekend to be a part of the festivities, but the Florida fans made no bones about their bitterness that he was standing on the opposite sideline. “Spurrier is a Cock” t-shirts were sold on seemingly every street corner leading up to the game, and it was the hottest topic of conversation in the local media.
The game itself was a highly anticipated matchup. Tickets were being sold for $250 a pair outside the stadium, $100 higher than I’d ever seen for a South Carolina game before. Florida was ranked sixth in the nation and hadn’t been outside of the top ten all season. It carried an 8-1 record into the contest, with its only loss coming on the road at the hands of #2 Auburn 27-17. South Carolina was a much better team than its 5-4 record indicated, as it had lost to Auburn by a touchdown, #8 Tennessee by a touchdown, and #12 Arkansas by six points. The Gators knew that a second loss would extinguish their slim hopes for a national championship berth.
Playing the game
Florida was a 12.5 point favorite heading into the contest, but it was the Gamecocks that came out swinging. Mike Davis scored on a four-yard scamper to give South Carolina an early lead before Florida tied the game just before halftime. Florida’s Ray McDonald also blocked a field goal in the first half that would have extended Carolina’s lead. The teams would trade fourth quarter field goals to make the score 10-10. South Carolina took a 16-10 lead on another Mike Davis touchdown, but Jarvis Moss lept up to block the extra point. It was an omen of things to come.
Freshman Tim Tebow, brought in off the bench for one play at a time in obvious running situations, scored a touchdown with just over three minutes remaining to give Florida a 17-16 advantage. South Carolina drove down the field for a potential winning score, but a false start penalty nullified a long pass to Sidney Rice into the red zone. The Gamecocks picked up eight yards on the next play, but would have to settle for a long field goal attempt. With eight seconds remaining, Ryan Succop lined up to attempt a 48-yard field goal that would win the game for South Carolina.
Jarvis Moss, responsible for the blocked extra point earlier in the quarter, came up with another huge play to seal the win for the Gators. Here’s another view of the play from the student section. Warning: you may want to turn your volume down. It gets a little crazy.
I’ve seen specific plays that seemed louder than this block, but this matchup is still by far the loudest game I’ve ever been to, bar none. I was seated about 65 rows up from the field, and the headache and ringing sensation in my ears from the noise of this game lasted for over two hours. People calling in to the postgame call-in show said they’d been attending games for decades and had never heard The Swamp as loud as it was on that warm Saturday night.
Florida used the win as a springboard to the 2006 national championship. It defeated rival Florida State on the road and Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game to vault to #2 in the BCS standings, then dismantled an overly confident Ohio State team 41-14 to claim its first title since 1996.