No. 22 South Carolina Runs Past No. 24 Florida, 36-14, To Claim School's First SEC East Title

Steve Spurrier returned to the town where he became a legend and won an SEC East title -- for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Spurrier's team will meet Auburn in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.

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South Carolina Vs. Florida: Steve Spurrier Guides South Carolina Past Florida, To First SEC East Title

There were plenty of skeptics when Steve Spurrier took the South Carolina head coaching job; Lee Corso infamously said that Spurrier wouldn’t win the SEC if he stayed in Columbia for 400 years. Five years later, and Spurrier has taken a major step toward that goal with the school’s first SEC East title.

And in truly ironic fashion, Spurrier delivered that championship by leading South Carolina to its first victory in the Swamp, the stadium that Spurrier himself helped turn into one of the most celebrated home-field advantages in college football. Spurrier had built Florida into an SEC and national powerhouse during his 12 years in Gainesville in the 1990s and early part of the last decade; Saturday night he was the villain who denied Urban Meyer’s Florida program its third straight SEC East championship.

Spurrier did it a way that would have been almost unrecognizable in his Florida days, with an offensive attack focus on star running back Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries. Stephen Garcia was efficient but far from a Fun ‘n’ Gun quarterback of old, going 15-of-22 for 156 yards on the night — no touchdowns, but also none of the interceptions that have sometimes proved to be the Gamecocks’ undoing in Garcia’s three topsy-turvy years under center.

And this was not a flukish win; South Carolina dominated the game, with 400 yards to Florida’s 226, 24 first downs to the Gators’ 11 and a more than two-to-one edge in time of possession. After taking the opening kickoff in for a touchdown, Florida would not score again until more than halfway through the fourth quarter. A South Carolina defense that had gotten annihilated at home the week before against Arkansas went to one of the most imposing venues in the nation and limited the Gators to 4.9 yards per pass and 1.8 yards per rush.

It was the perfect cap to an improbable season. South Carolina defeated No. 1 Alabama at home only to squander that momentum with losses to Kentucky and Arkansas and unimpressive victories against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Spurrier’s program was also in the cross-hairs of AgentGate, with tight end Weslye Saunders eventually dismissed from the team and several of his teammates needing last-minute reinstatements before the season opener.

But if South Carolina was ever going to win the SEC East, this was the year. The division’s perennial powers were all going through down years; Lattimore proved to be a better running back than even most Gamecock fans expected; and Alshon Jeffery was back at wide receiver with no signs of a sophomore slump. Next year would no longer be good enough.

Of course, the biggest test for South Carolina and Spurrier will still be a rematch with the Auburn team that edged them at Auburn earlier this year. But for now, with a division championship finally in the school’s trophy case, next year is this year for South Carolina.

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