Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Pope Urban Rules"

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel (the best sports writer out there):

"This looks like it could be the year of the Gator," Spurrier said afterward. "Everything's going right for them."

Said game-saving UF defensive end Jarvis Moss, the man who blocked the game-winning kick and one other: "We can sense something special is going on. We're going all the way. There's no doubt in my mind we're going to wind up in Arizona [playing in the national-title game]."

Spurrier -- a k a Stevie Spoiler -- beat the Gators last year and ruined Florida's chances of winning an SEC title. And Saturday, he came into his old Swamping grounds and nearly cost the Gators a chance at possibly winning a national title.

Before the game, Spurrier's wife, Jerri, whom he met at UF and married 40 years ago, sat anxiously in a luxury box with a worried look on her face. Like everybody else in the stadium, she probably felt confused and conflicted. Here was Steve Spurrier, who named The Swamp, trying to drain The Swamp. Here was Steve Spurrier, the father of Florida football, trying to burn down the family home.

"This isn't fun," Jerri said with a pained expression.

Actually, it was a blast -- one of the most uptight, unnerving, emotionally charged games I've ever witnessed. A game of mixed emotions and split allegiances, a game of duality and dichotomy. Afterward, Spurrier, the old boy from Florida, waved at a section of cheering Florida fans. And then Spurrier, the new head Gamecock, gave the thumbs-up sign to a section of disappointed South Carolina fans. Perhaps Spurrier's son-in-law, Jay Moody, a UF grad, put it best when he said afterward, "I don't know if I'm supposed to be happy or sad."

There was no question how Meyer felt afterward -- delighted, excited, fired up, jacked up and, mostly, relieved. He knew he had to win this game, not just to help keep Florida's national championship hopes alive, but to help kill UF's massive man-crush on Spurrier.

No doubt about it, the Urban Legend needed badly to beat the real legend. Even though Meyer said in the days leading up to the game that this was "about beating South Carolina," nobody believed him. And afterward, he admitted beating Spur-Dog was bigger than he let on.

"It means a lot -- more than I'll ever admit to, more than anybody will ever know," Meyer said.

Yes, there always will be a Spurrier shadow hanging over whoever is UF's coach, but the victory Saturday let a stream of light pierce through and shine onto Meyer and the program he has turned into a national-title contender in just two years. It was Meyer's offense that drove down the field when it had to Saturday. It was Spurrier's offense that mismanaged the clock at the end, wasted time and didn't even use all of its timeouts.

He might have left UF five years ago, but the Spurrier coaching era didn't really and truly end until Saturday.

King Steve has been conquered.

Pope Urban rules.

God once again is grinning on the Gators.