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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Of all the great plays that led to UF's national championship win against No. 1 Ohio State last year, the greatest came two months before that game was even played.

Before defensive end Jarvis Moss' fingers were covered in championship rings, they made one of the most critical plays in Gators history.

In UF's final regular-season Southeastern Conference game, Moss blocked South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop's 48-yard field goal attempt as time expired to seal a 17-16 win and send the Gators toward Glendale.

"That was the biggest play," said defensive end Derrick Harvey, who was clearing space for Moss to jump on the final play. "That's what got us to the national championship."

What made the feat even more improbable was that the Gators had already blocked two kicks in the game. Moss had rejected a fourth-quarter extra point, and earlier Ray McDonald had got a hand on a third-quarter attempt from 47 yards.

"I had never had a kick blocked before that game, so that was a tough thing," Succop said. "Jarvis Moss just made a heck of a play. There's not too much you can do about that."

Had Succop's kick been good, the Gators still would have traveled to the SEC Championship Game, but any hopes of a national title would have been dashed.

"That was a great day in Florida football history," Coach Urban Meyer said. "It propelled us to Glendale, Arizona. The SEC East was already won, but that got us a chance to keep going on the national level."

A loss to former UF coach Steve Spurrier would have altered the perception of Meyer as well.

Meyer was hailed as one of the top college football coaches after he finished his second year in Gainesville with a perfect home record and a national title - two things that would never have happened without the block.

Succop had only missed one kick prior to the game, a 51-yarder that hit the upright in the Gamecocks' second game of the year.

When the reliable kicker lined up for his attempt in The Swamp, the entire stadium was on edge, except for a few players.

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"We already knew he was going to block it," Harvey said. "We just had to get a push, and he was going to get up and block it."

"(Moss) was a first-round pick, and that's what first-round picks do."

Succop was convinced his kick was headed through the uprights until Moss' left hand got in the way.

"When I hit it, it felt great," Succop said. "I was just real excited because I thought it was going in, and when he got a finger on it, it was pretty disappointing."

UF quarterback Tim Tebow hopes the kick was heading awry anyway, but he's fully appreciative of Moss' impact.

"Hopefully it would've gone wide left, but that was a pretty good field-goal kicker so he might've made it, and the season would've been a lot different," Tebow said. "So I'm glad Moss was (6 foot 6) with a big vertical leap."

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