College football: SEC Championship
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.
“Michigan already had its chance,” said Harvin, referring to the Wolverines’ lone loss, which was to Ohio State. “I think we deserve a chance.”
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.
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt threw his support to the Gators.
“This is the toughest conference in America,” Nutt said. “If I went sitting on that other sideline, I would be saying, ‘Absolutely.’ I wish them all the best and hope they have an opportunity to go.”
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.
“That has to be one of greatest football games ever as far as momentum shifts,” said Gators coach Urban Meyer, who rebuilt a program that dominated the SEC under Steve Spurrier but fell on hard times after Ron Zook took over.
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.
By Susan Shinn Salisbury Post LEXINGTON — Visitors to the Charity League of Lexington’s 47th annual holiday house tour will... read more