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Florida punter atones for his role in two blocked kicks with a momentum-swinging fourth-down dash.
By DEBI JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000
GAINESVILLE -- A low boo could be heard as Alan Rhine stepped onto the field for the third time Saturday afternoon.
And though Gators fans usually are not happy to the see the punter enter the game, it was different this time. Rhine's first two punts had been blocked and returned for touchdowns, giving South Carolina a 21-3 lead in the game that determined the SEC Eastern Division champion.
Instead of punting on fourth and 2 from the UF 28-yard line, Rhine ran left on a fake and received a few key blocks on his way to a 26-yard gain and a first down.
"It's a good feeling to see that much open field," Rhine said. "I guess that's really a gamble, but it was nice to have the chance to kind of turn the game around."
The boos turned to cheers as Rhine gained the first down, which led to a Jesse Palmer completion to Reche Caldwell for a touchdown and six of the next 38 UF points that led to victory.
Florida coach Steve Spurrier said the fake punt became a possibility during the week.
"(Punt/punt return coach) Jimmy Collins came to me about Wednesday and said to me, "Coach, we have a chance to run around the left end because they have everybody over here,' " Spurrier said. "We had just had two in a row blocked. I said, "Let's do that thing where you run around the left end.' "
The Gators practiced the fake punt once. Rhine's first punt, from the Florida 29, was blocked and recovered by South Carolina's Carlos Spikes for a touchdown with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
His punt after the next series did not turn out any better. Derek Watson blocked the kick and scored on a 2-yard return with six seconds left. "It was sort of a desperation move at that time," Spurrier said. "But it was better than getting the thing blocked and going backwards for another touchdown."
Rhine said it is rare for a punter to create a turning point in a game.
The Gamecocks did not score again.
"It's discouraging any time you get two freebies on special teams," Gamecocks quarterback Phil Petty said. "You think things will keep going your way, and when they don't, it's discouraging."