- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: GatorNation is counting down the top five moments of Florida’s 2012 season this week. They could be plays, drives, quarters or decisions, but regardless of what they are, they are the significant moments that shaped the season.
We continue with No. 2: Blitz
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you blinked, you might have missed one of the most significant moments of Florida’s season.
In fact, there were a lot of people at Florida Field on Oct. 20 who weren’t even in their seats when it happened.
It was the first offensive play of the game. CB Loucheiz Purifoy blitzed from the left side of the defensive formation and sacked South Carolina QB Connor Shaw and forced Shaw to fumble. LB Lerentee McCray recovered the ball at the 2-yard line, and three plays later the Gators led 7-0.
The turnover sparked the Gators, who went on to beat the Gamecocks 44-11 one week after a surprising 14-6 victory over LSU. The victory served notice to the rest of the SEC that Florida was a serious contender for the conference title.
"We’re on our way to being what Florida used to be, what Florida’s known for," C Jonotthan Harrison said after the game. "We remember the feeling [of going 7-6 in 2011], how bad it hurt. We just used that as pure motivation and came out and completely dominated this team."
Purifoy’s hit on Shaw started that. Though Shaw is a right-handed quarterback, he never saw Purifoy coming untouched from the right side of the offensive formation. Not until it was too late, anyway, and Purifoy knocked the ball out of Shaw’s hands at the 5-yard line.
Purifoy forced another fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but the Gamecocks were able to recover it. They weren’t as lucky on two other fumbles. Trey Burton knocked the ball loose from punt returner Ace Sanders, and Solomon Patton stripped kick returner Damiere Byrd. Both led to UF touchdowns.
UF also picked off backup QB Dylan Thompson once.
They all contributed to Florida’s first victory over South Carolina since 2009. It also marked the first time a Gators team had beaten a Steve Spurrier-coached South Carolina team without Tim Tebow on the roster.
And it all started with Purifoy’s big play.
"I love blitzing," Purifoy said. "… I just love hitting people."
1dSam Khan Jr.
6dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough