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December 2, 2006

Harvin delivers win, now Gators wait

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ATLANTA -Halfway through the Southeastern Conference title game, Florida knew it had a shot at playing for an even bigger championship.

The Gators may just get it, thanks to freshman Percy Harvin and an opportunistic special teams.

Harvin scored two touchdowns and No. 4 Florida put up two more scores off a blocked punt and a botched return, leading the Gators to a wild 38-28 victory over eighth-ranked Arkansas for their first SEC crown since 2000 on Saturday night.

Now, Florida has its eye on another prize. No. 2 Southern California, which had the inside track to face top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS championship game, blew its chance with a 13-9 loss to UCLA.

The Gators (12-1) are hoping their win over Arkansas was impressive enough to vault them past third-ranked Michigan in the BCS standings. The media, coaches and computers will answer that question Sunday.

When everything is settled - and no matter what happens, there will be plenty of griping - Florida either heads to the desert to face Ohio State in the Jan. 8 BCS championship game or settles for a spot in the Sugar Bowl as the SEC champion.

For those who complained that Florida didn't play an exciting brand of football, relying a little too heavily on its defense, there was a little something for everyone in this one - starting with big plays galore and plenty of razzle-dazzle.

Harvin, who was chosen MVP, caught a 37-yard touchdown pass and broke off a 67-yard run to the end zone. Florida scored its first touchdown after Jarred Fayson broke up the middle to block a punt, then went ahead for good when Wondy Pierre-Louis fell on a fumbled punt in the end zone late in the third quarter.

Three touchdown passes were thrown by someone other than a quarterback.

Florida receiver Andre Caldwell hooked up with Tate Casey on a 5-yard score. Arkansas' star running back, Darren McFadden, threw a 2-yard TD to fellow runner Felix Jones, who also hauled in a 29-yard scoring pass from receiver Cedric Washington.

Arkansas (10-3) certainly didn't make it easy on the Gators, rallying from a 17-0 deficit after being held without a touchdown in their first two appearances in the SEC title game.

The Razorbacks got on the board just before halftime when Casey Dick threw a 48-yard TD pass to Marcus Monk. In the third period, they came up with two interceptions against Florida's senior quarterback, Chris Leak - the first setting up a TD, the second returned 40 yards for a score by 255-pound defensive end Antwain Robinson.

But in the end, Florida made a few more plays than the Razorbacks, who will have to settle for a spot in either the Capital One, Outback or Cotton Bowl.

"BCS, give us a shot!" one Florida fan pleaded toward the press box, aware that some voters who will have a hand in that decision were covering the game.

USC held a 9-7 halftime lead over its crosstown rival when the Gators kicked off to Arkansas.

Early in the second quarter, there was a smattering of applause among the Florida contingent when they got word that UCLA had gone ahead. At halftime, the Georgia Dome erupted - at least the sections where fans were wearing blue and orange - when the Bruins preserved their stunning upset with a late interception.

For more coverage of Florida, visit GatorBait.net; for more on Arkansas, visit HawgSports.com.



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