By ANTONYA ENGLISH and BRIAN SHAFFER
Published November 16, 2003
COLUMBIA, S.C. - It was a call that could have cost Florida its chance for victory and a tie in the SEC East, and the coaching staff acknowledged the mistake after the game.
With 1:31 left in the first half and the Gators trailing 9-7, Florida called timeout just before South Carolina punted on fourth and 8 at the Florida 39. On Florida's ensuing drive, the Gamecocks used their final two timeouts and forced a punt with 14 seconds left.
It was enough time for Chavez Donnings to return the punt 73 yards for a touchdown, sending South Carolina into the locker room with a 16-7 lead.
It was reminiscent of Tennessee's Casey Clausen completing a long pass to receiver James Banks as time expired to take a 10-7 lead into the locker room Sept. 20. The Gators also called a timeout just before halftime, and the Vols got the ball back.
"You never call timeout in that situation," Florida coach Ron Zook said Saturday. "I'm the head coach, and I take responsibility. But I didn't call that timeout."
Actually, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong did.
"The timeout was my fault," Strong said. "I looked up at the clock and thought we had two minutes left."
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: He's known as one of the most reliable receivers on the team, but tight end Ben Troupe squandered a golden opportunity with 2:01 left in the third quarter. He dropped a ball in the end zone. It hit him in the hands then hit the ground. The Gators settled for a 20-yard field goal to take a 17-16 lead.
"It was really one of those too good to be true kind of plays," said Troupe, who had three catches for 35 yards, including a 21-yarder. "Thank God our defense stepped up and held the game for us."
STILL A LEGEND: Former South Carolina running back George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, still commands respect and attention in Columbia.
A small crowd of Gamecock fans waited in line patiently Saturday morning for a photo with Rogers and his Heisman Trophy. Rogers earns about $250-$300 per game, and proceeds go to the George Rogers Foundation for inner-city youth.
Rogers has a lifetime Heisman vote and has been keeping a close eye on this year's hopefuls. So if he were casting a vote today, how might his ballot look?
"I think I would vote for the kid from Oklahoma, the quarterback (Jason White). Then the receiver from Pittsburgh (Larry Fitzgerald) looks awfully good," Rogers said. "I think from there, I would go with (Ole Miss quarterback) Eli Manning."
LINEUP CHANGES: Senior defensive end Bobby McCray started for the first time in two weeks. McCray was suspended for the Gators' victory against Georgia and replaced by fellow senior Travis Harris. Harris started last weekend against Vanderbilt.
McCray, who leads the SEC in sacks with 81/2, rotated with Harris last weekend then regained his starting spot after what Zook called McCray's best week of practice since he took over.