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Gators relish shot at SEC East crown

November 9, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

GAINESVILLE (AP) - When Florida lost three consecutive games last month, players feared the worst.

They thought their shot at winning the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division was over. They figured their goal of getting to Atlanta for the league title game was lost. They even wondered what it would be like to play relatively meaningless games down the stretch.

The Gators were down and definitely feeling out.

Then came the turnaround. Florida overhauled its offense during the bye week and responded with an overtime win against rival Georgia and a lopsided victory at Vanderbilt. Now, the 24th-ranked Gators have a winner-take-all game against No. 22 South Carolina Saturday night to decide the division race.

"We always want to be fighting for a spot in the SEC championship in November, and that's what we're doing," Florida quarterback John Brantley said. "We put ourselves in that situation. Maybe not in the way we wanted to, but we stuck together and we're fighting for our spot."

The Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) dropped games against Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State to open October, a three-game losing streak that knocked Florida out of the polls for the first time in coach Urban Meyer's tenure and had many wondering what happened to a program that had won two of the last four national titles.

Meyer turned to his staff for answers, and the assistant coaches came up with a no-huddle offense featuring three quarterbacks. Not two, but three.

With John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed alternating snaps, the Gators delivered two of their top three offensive performances of the season. They managed 450 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs, then racked up 480 yards and eight TDs against the Commodores.

"This has been a really, really hard year, been a challenging year," Meyer said.

The Gators could come out fairly unscathed with a victory against the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2), who have kept Florida in the hunt for the East with losses to Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas.

The Gators have won 18 of the last 19 games against South Carolina and are 12-0 against the Gamecocks in Gainesville. None of those meetings have had this much at stake. In fact, it's the first SEC East game with winner-take-all implications in Gainesville since Tennessee and Florida played in December 2001.

Meyer already dubbed it "championship week."

And he expects a championship crowd.



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