It's hard to say just how far No. 4 Florida can go in its chase for a national title.
But it seems certain Doug Johnson and Travis McGriff will be the ones leading the Gators to wherever they go.
Johnson withstood a beating Saturday to throw for 360 yards and four scores and McGriff caught 13 passes for 222 yards to lead Florida to a 33-14 victory over South Carolina.
It was the seventh consecutive victory for Florida (9-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference), which stayed in the hunt for a national title with a big game at No. 5 Florida State coming up next week.
South Carolina (1-9, 0-8) lost for the ninth consecutive time and, as usual, proved no match for Florida. The Gators have outscored coach Brad Scott's Gamecocks 244-84 since he arrived five seasons ago.
Part of it is because Florida continues to bring in talented players like McGriff -- a 5-foot-8 speedster whose father, Lee, was an All-SEC player for the Gators in the mid-1970s.
"He's a veteran player, he runs good routes, he's very competitive," Scott said. "Even when they were struggling, he was the money player as far as catching the deep ball, the post and the touchdowns. He might be a little guy, but he really does a nice job."
Two of McGriff's catches went for touchdowns. His performance fell just two receptions and 15 yards short of Carlos Alvarez's record-setting day for the Gators against Miami in 1969.
McGriff also became the first Florida player to twice surpass 200 receiving yards during his career.
| South Carolina couldn't catch up with Travis Taylor and the rest of Florida's receivers. (AP) |
Meanwhile, Johnson continued to look like the student of the game that coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be.
Johnson has 1,118 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions over the last three contests. The Gators have scored 38, 45 and 33 points along the way.
He put up good numbers against the Gamecocks despite a constant beating that started on the second play, when he got the wind knocked out of him, and ended in the fourth quarter, when Spurrier pulled him after Johnson was clocked following an 11-yard scramble.
"He is durable," Spurrier said. "He is a lot like Danny Wuerffel in that he can take a lick. We can't worry so much about the quarterback getting hurt. He has to go out and play."
He more or less helped put the game away by halftime, when the Gators led 24-7. With Florida always looking for the 50-point effort, however, nobody was celebrating the performance on offense.
"Today we played well enough to win. Nothing spectacular," Johnson said.
Still, the Gators did avoid the kind of mistakes that made games earlier this year very un-Florida-like experiences.
As recently as their last appearance at The Swamp -- against Auburn in October -- Spurrier shut down a sputtering offense in the second half and settled for a 24-3 victory that brought boos from Gators fans who stuck around for the whole thing.
Everything seems to be clicking now, thanks in part to the Johnson-to-McGriff combo.
They combined twice for scores, the first a 36-yard pass that gave Florida a 24-7 lead before halftime. In the third quarter, McGriff outmuscled Kevin House on a sideline route for a 29-yard score that he punctuated by tossing the ball into the stands.
"That was something I thought about last night," McGriff said. "That was for the seniors who never lost a game here, for coach Spurrier and the rest of the staff."
The Gators extended their home winning streak to 27 games. The seniors became the first class to go four years without suffering a home loss. They finished 24-0 at The Swamp.
"Four years ago, I don't know what the odds would have been on that," Spurrier said. "Give them full credit for it."
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