GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Steve Spurrier stood up there and grinned and tilted his head and told us all in the postgame press conference about 57 times that this was about South Carolina, not about him, and that there was no significance to winning in The Swamp he used to call home because the only thing that mattered is that the Gamecocks had just earned their first SEC East title in school history.
I didn't buy a word of it.
Neither did South Carolina's Spencer Lanning.
"I think it means a heckuva lot to him," said Lanning, who proved you can always trust a kicker to shoot straight. "You should see how happy he is. Unbelievable, the smile he had."
South Carolina beat Florida 36-14 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to clinch a spot in the SEC championship game against Auburn, and that's the storyline Spurrier tried to push everybody's direction. But the real story was him because that's always the real story when the man who won a Heisman Trophy as a player at Florida and a national title as a coach at Florida returns to Florida to coach against the Gators.
It's a bigger story when he wins.
It's an even bigger story when he wins with these stakes.
And an even bigger story when it highlights Florida's ongoing issues, and sends much of an announced crowd of 90,885 home midway through the fourth quarter, disappointed and vocally disgusted. It's one thing for the Gators to lose a third straight home game, something else to lose a third straight home game when a win would've put them in the SEC championship game, and something else entirely to lose a third straight home game when a win would've put them in the SEC championship game while Spurrier is the guy coaching on the visiting sideline, play-calling and generally embarrassing them on national television.
Seriously, this was the perfect storm of bad for Florida.
The Gators were awful offensively.
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They mustered only 35 rushing yards and didn't score an offensive touchdown until less than eight minutes remained in a game that was at the time separated by three scores. (If Chris Rainey spends Sunday texting "Time to die" to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, will anybody be offended?) Meantime, South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore carried the ball 40 times for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns, and, yes, getting Lattimore 40 carries was the plan going in.
"[Coach asked] me during the week, '[Can] you do about 35 or 40 [carries]?'" Lattimore said. "I told him, 'Yeah.'"
(See how simple football can be sometimes?)
Lattimore won't win the Heisman Trophy this season.
But nobody should be surprised if he gets one before he leaves college.
"I'm glad I play offense and on the same team as him," South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia said. "It would be frustrating to watch [Lattimore] run up and down the field."
So now the Gamecocks are headed to Atlanta for their first SEC championship game [after regular-season games against Troy and Clemson, of course] and Florida is headed for, man, I don't even know. The Gators have gone from a team ranked fourth in the preseason Associated Press poll to a team with a 4-4 record in the SEC. That they actually entered the weekend with a chance to still play in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game says more about the stupid system plaguing college football than anything else, but that's a column for another day.
The column for this day is a column about Steve Spurrier.
He's an icon from the Florida campus who came back to the Florida campus and won a game that brought something to the South Carolina campus that nobody had ever been able to bring there before, and he did it convincingly (and while wearing a trademark visor). A big moment for the school? Sure. But more than that, it was a big moment for the legend of the man commonly known as the Ol' Ball Coach, and Spurrier seemed to be the only person in the South Carolina locker room hesitant to recognize as much.
"I know it means a lot to him to win this here," Lattimore said. "And it means a lot to us to be able to get it for him."