If Florida coach Steve Spurrier was trying to hide his attack from Florida State next week, he did a great job.
For the second straight week, the fourth-ranked Gators overcame offensive problems to struggle past a team they were expected to wallop with ease, this time beating winless South Carolina 20-3 on Saturday.
"We're not as mighty as a lot of people think we are," Spurrier said. "But we keep winning somehow. If they want to think we're the mighty Gators, then let them."
"If we could somehow or another gel and get better and compete harder, we may have a chance for a big year," Spurrier said.
Not if the offense, led by junior Jesse Palmer instead of regular starter Doug Johnson, flounders like it did against South Carolina (0-10, 0-8). The Gators threw for 161 yards, three less than the Gamecocks.
"That's embarrassing," joked South Carolina coach Lou Holtz.
Palmer's 28-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson was the only touchdown Florida needed. Palmer kept the Gators out of trouble the rest of the way.
The Gamecocks' struggles continued. Their losing streak, the country's longest, grew to 20 games a day after Holtz's mother, Anne Marie, died in his hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio.
"I had a lot of mixed emotions out there today," Holtz said.
Spurrier hoped to spark his team by switching to Palmer, who started six games last season but hadn't played since Sept. 11. But this performance couldn't have been what the genius coach had in mind.
And it sure won't impress he Bowl Championship Series, in which the Gators sit fourth behind Florida State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. At that, Florida should move up, since Arkansas beat Tennessee 28-24.
Palmer was only 5-of-19 for 63 yards in the first quarter and looked lost at times.
One early drive ended with Sheldon Brown's interception, a second on a false start and two deflections. Spurrier, frustrated with the attack, took a swipe at the second tipped ball with his foot after it bounded to the sidelines.
Palmer was not alone. Receiver Travis Taylor dropped a pass in the end zone and Jackson let a ball go off his fingers after getting behind the defense.
Palmer and Jackson finally combined for the only touchdown Florida would need, a 28-yard strike with 13:45 left before halftime.
Palmer was 15-of-33 for 161 yards. He said he needed some time to shake off the rust. "I started really feeling a lot better during the second half," Palmer said.
Spurrier said he would wait to see if Palmer or Johnson would start against the Seminoles in The Swamp next week.
Earnest Graham had a 4-yard touchdown run and 105 yards, most of that in the second half when Florida slowed things down.
"If we put that performance out there next week, we'll lose," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had one of Florida's five sacks. "We have to play harder and smarter."
The Gators' defense, which held Vanderbilt to only 239 yards in the 13-6 victory last week, stepped up again against South Carolina, the league's worst offense. The Gamecocks didn't get a first down until the second quarter and gained only 251 yards.
Even when South Carolina got something going, it ended badly. The Gamecocks appeared to tie it at 10-all just before halftime on Brian Scott's 18-yard TD reception. But a chop block was called against South Carolina, wiping out the score.
Holtz, who has never lost this many games in his three-decade career, was incensed, chest-thumping an official as his assistants tried to calm him.
Holtz, who will leave Sunday for his mother's services, said he felt his team was prepared for the first time all season and showed it could withstand one of the country's best.
"I wish I could be around next week to build on this," Holtz said. "But it would dishonor my mother's memory otherwise."
Steve Florio missed three of four field goal attempts for the Gamecocks, who can complete their first winless season since 1894, when they lost both games they played before they had a coach.
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