Photo courtesy of Florida athletics
For Florida, 2006 was a magical season. In the second year under head coach Urban Meyer, the Gators went on to claim their second national championship and first in 10 years.
Along the way however, there many close calls. That season, Florida played five games decided by seven points or less, including one that took place on this day 15 years ago.
In that one, Jarvis Moss blocked South Carolina’s winning field goal attempt as time expired to keep Florida’s title hopes alive, 17-16.
Setting the Stage
Florida was 8-1 and ranked No. 6 in the country as it wrapped up SEC play on Nov. 11, 2006. The Gators had already clinched the SEC East, but needed a win to keep their national title hopes alive.
On the other sideline was a familiar face. South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier had served as Florida’s first Heisman Trophy winner 40 years prior and led the program to its first national championship a decade before.
The Gamecocks were just 5-4, but all of its losses have come to ranked teams and three were decided by seven points or less. For 60 minutes, Spurrier’s team gave his alma mater all it wanted.
Moss Saves the Day
For nearly 57 minutes of football, Florida never led in the contest. The teams traded touchdowns in the first half and then field goals early in the fourth quarter, but as the final period neared a midway point, South Carolina pulled ahead.
With the contest tied 10-10 and more than eight minutes to play, Mike Davis’ second touchdown run of the day — an 11-yard scamper — gave the Gamecocks the lead. The extra point attempt however, was blocked by Moss.
That would prove costly for South Carolina. For Moss however, it wouldn’t even be his biggest block of the game.
Florida responded with an 11-play, 80-march of its own that took more than five minutes off the clock. Quarterback Chris Leak used his arm and his legs to march Florida down the field while backup Tim Tebow used his legs and brute strength.
After converting a fourth down inside his own 30-yard-line earlier in the drive, Tebow scored on a 12-yard touchdown run. With about three minutes to play, the extra point was good and for the first time, the Gators led, 17-16.
On the ensuing drive, South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell completed four of his first five passes to move his team inside the Florida 35-yard-line. The stout Florida defense would stiffen, however.
With just eight seconds remaining, the Gamecocks faced fourth down at the Gators’ 31. Onto the field came kicker Ryan Succop.
Succop had connected from 47 yards to give South Carolina the lead early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t that kick that was duplicated. On the decisive attempt, Moss leaped high into the air and got his hand on the ball, which fell innocently to the grass.
With no time remaining, Florida had survived.
The loss was South Carolina’s fourth heartbreaker to a ranked team and fifth overall. The Gamecocks however, would close the year strong. South Carolina won its final three games, including victories over No. 24 Clemson and Houston in the Liberty Bowl to finish 8-5.
Florida would run the table. After beating Arkansas for its first SEC Championship in six years, the Gators blasted Ohio State in the BCS National Championship to win their first national title in a decade. The closest game from that campaign took a last-second block and came on this day 15 years ago.