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Nov. 11, 2006

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Jarvis Moss blocked a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 6 Florida a 17-16 victory over South Carolina on Saturday, spoiling Steve Spurrier’s return to Gainesville and keeping the Gators’ national championship hopes intact.

Spurrier stood near the 31-yard line with his legs crossed as Ryan Succop lined up for the game-winner. Succop’s kick cleared the line of scrimmage but didn’t get over the outstretched arms of the 6-foot-6 defensive end.

It was the third blocked kick of the game for Florida (9-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) and the second for Moss.

Moss blocked Succop’s extra point attempt earlier in the fourth quarter, leaving the Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5) with a 16-10 advantage following Mike Davis’ second touchdown run.

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald also blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt in the first half.

After Davis’ score, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow teamed up to put the Gators ahead. Tebow picked up 6 yards on fourth-and-one in Florida territory, Leak ran for 17 a few plays later and then added an 8-yard scramble on third down.

Tebow scored on the next play from 12 yards out. Florida then made the extra point, which turned out to be the difference in the game – and maybe the season.

The Gators were fourth in the latest Bowl Championship Series rankings, right behind Louisville and just in front of Texas. But with the Cardinals losing at Rutgers on Thursday night and with No. 1 Ohio State playing No. 2 Michigan next Saturday, the Gators believe they have as good a chance as anybody of getting to the national championship game as a one-loss team.

Blake Mitchell drove the Gamecocks to the Florida 34 on the final drive, but a false start moved them back 5 yards. On third-and-17, he connected with Freddie Brown III for 8 yards to get them back into field goal territory.

Then Moss stepped up.

The Gamecocks need to win one of their remaining games against Middle Tennessee and Clemson to become bowl eligible for the second straight year under the ol’ ball coach.

Spurrier coached 12 years in Gainesville and led Florida – his alma mater – to national prominence.

He went 68-5 at Florida Field, creating one of the best home-field advantages in college football, and even nicknamed the stadium the Swamp.

His 1966 Heisman Trophy is displayed outside the locker room. So are photos of his six Southeastern Conference championship teams and the 1996 national title trophy. His name and No. 11 jersey are painted inside the stadium. And he has one of four spots in the program’s Ring of Honor, commemorated by a large placard featuring his name and number.

He said repeatedly that returning to Gainesville would be no big deal because he would be immersed in calling plays.

Spurrier was cheered by some, but booed by most as he entered the stadium along with his players.

But he quickly showed why so many fans wanted him to return to Florida after an unsuccessful stint in the NFL.

South Carolina took an early lead after Florida’s Chris Hetland missed a field goal attempt for the seventh time this season.

The Gamecocks converted a fourth down on their scoring drive, then got help from a personal foul penalty. Mitchell, starting in place of Syvelle Newton, completed all six passes on the drive for 46 yards.

Davis capped the 80-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run, silencing most of the 90,000-plus fans on hand.

South Carolina looked to make it 10-0 with a 55-yard field goal attempt, but a delay of game forced a punt and prompted Spurrier to toss his play-calling sheet to the ground.

Florida responded with its longest drive in more than a month, a 78-yarder that Leak completed with a a 21-yard TD pass to Dallas Baker, who reached over Fred Bennett’s back, grabbed the ball and stepped backward into the end zone.