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South Carolina scratches, claws, beats Florida 19-14

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

No one in the stands at Williams-Brice Stadium was really watching the live game in front of them. As the Gamecocks kicked off against the Florida Gators, the collective attention of the attending fans was actually in Auburn, Alabama.

As Georgia seemed to seal up a dramatic, come-from-behind victory to potentially knock South Carolina out of SEC East contention, something even more dramatic happened with just a minute and some change to go: Auburn scored.

The crowd at Williams-Brice went crazed as if South Carolina had scored that touchdown. Auburn's wild Hail Mary throw helped the Gamecocks stay in the race for the SEC East.

Even coach Steve Spurrier was enthralled with the unreal ending.

"What a game that was, good gracious. Sort of a Hail Mary ball, ricocheting around, he caught it," said Spurrier.

But then suddenly everyone remembered something important: there was still one SEC game left for the Gamecocks and it was going on right now.

And it was nowhere near the cake walk a lot of the fans thought it might have been.

With Florida starting its third-string quarterback, Tyler Mornhinweg, the prevailing thought was that the Gamecocks defensive line would have a field day against the experienced starter.

Except the Gators flipped the script and relied heavily on the run game. For a while, it seemed the Gamecocks were unable to stop the run. Running back Kelvin Taylor scored two touchdowns early, and South Carolina entered half time behind once again.

The Gamecocks eventually made a game of it with quarterback Connor Shaw heaving a desperate 4th and 3 pass in Gator territory into the arms of a stumbling Bruce Ellington for the first South Carolina touchdown of the game.

"It was the kind of play that was designed for [Damiere] Byrd to get the ball, but I saw one of my defenders slipping, so I just ran straight past him," said Ellington. "Connor did a heck of a job throwing the ball, and I caught it for a touchdown."  

"We kept ourselves alive," said Shaw of the play. "I'm proud of our guys for battling back. You can't count us out at Williams-Brice."

And would you believe it if we said a kicker for a Spurrier offense likely made the difference in this game? Kicker Elliot Fry made four big time field goals to keep the Gators' defense honest.

As for South Carolina's defense, they had a difficult time getting off the field due to Florida's running back situation.

At halftime, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward made some important adjustments and managed to keep the Gators out of the endzone for the rest of the game. Ward praised his squad for making it work.

"We talked about it at halftime. We had to man up," said Ward. "We knew Florida was going to run the football, we saw what the plan was going to be, so we made a simple adjustment at halftime to some of the stuff they were doing, and our guys, they manned up."

They certainly did man up -- especially cornerback Jimmy Legree. With 1:25 left to play and the Gators at midfield, Mornhinweg drops back to pass and floats one straight into Legree's awaiting arms.

"Oh, it was great coverage, and I guess it was kind of a desperation situation for them, and the quarterback threw it right to me, and I was able to make a play," said Legree.

The pick saved South Carolina from a major upset and keeps their SEC East title hopes alive for another week.

The Gamecocks continue to wrap up the season at Williams-Brice Stadium next week when Coastal Carolina comes to town.

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