College Sports

Not blocking out hope

Florida's Jarvis Moss (94) blocks a field goal attempt by South Carolina's Ryan Succop to seal last season's 17-16 win in Gainesville, Fla.
Florida's Jarvis Moss (94) blocks a field goal attempt by South Carolina's Ryan Succop to seal last season's 17-16 win in Gainesville, Fla.

COLUMBIA -- The play's burned on the back of Ryan Succop's eyelids. It's hard to shelve considering what it meant.

"The Florida game is what it is," he said. "The guy made a great play."

Florida's Jarvis Moss blocked Succop's potential game-winning 48-yard field goal at The Swamp last year, settling a 17-16 Gators win in the final seconds and sending South Carolina fans to the nearest therapist's couch. If the Gamecocks had won, it wouldn't have meant anything except a .500 SEC record and maybe a more prestigious bowl.

It also probably would have kept the Gators out of Glendale, Ariz., two months later, when they won the national title.

The kick getting blocked wasn't Succop's fault -- Moss had already blocked a Succop PAT earlier that led to the one-point deficit. And it's not automatic that Succop would have made the field goal, although he'd connected from 47 and 55 yards earlier, the 55 wiped because of a penalty.

But that's little consolation. Being that close to a program-defining win and having it taken away in the span of three seconds has stuck with Succop through the offseason.

The Gamecocks' junior kicker admitted feeling a pang of what-might-have-been while watching Florida demolish Ohio State for the national title, knowing had his kick just been a quarter-inch or so to the left, Moss wouldn't have touched it.

"Watching that game, when we played Florida, we had a great chance to beat them, probably should have beat them," he said. "I feel like, you know, a little sick to my stomach there that we couldn't get that last play."

Only one thing to do. Make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Exactly right," Succop agreed.

Succop enters his third year with the team and his second as the full-time place-kicker/punter/kickoff man and sees no reason why he'd quit doing any of the three. Although he's got a capable backup at each of the first two positions -- Rock Hill native Spencer Lanning is second on the depth chart -- Succop should still be doing all three in Saturday's season-opener and throughout the season.

Even with working on more kickoffs during preseason camp (new rules have pushed the kickoff line back 5 yards), Succop isn't worried about burning himself out. His coaches aren't, either.

"Fortunately, he's a strong kid and an athletic kid and he plays all year-round," said Fred Chatham, who coordinates special teams along with Shane Beamer. "You got to be careful you don't kick him out during two-a-days."

That hasn't been an issue thus far. Succop's been his usual steady self in the preseason and is expected to be virtually automatic this season.

"He's a good one and if we're inside the 50-yard line, we're comfortable letting him have a go at it," coach Steve Spurrier said. "It's good to have a good kicker. Sometimes at Florida, nobody knew who the kicker was. But when you play close games, and we're going to be in close games just like last year, maybe the team with the best kicker's got a chance to win and maybe win the conference."

Succop only missed four field goals last year, a 51-yarder against Georgia that hit the left upright and a shanked 33-yarder during the Liberty Bowl. His other two misses were blocked.

He still made 16-of-20 attempts, including another 55-yarder against Vanderbilt and a 50-yarder against Tennessee. His efforts at Mississippi State were credited by Spurrier as being the main reason the Gamecocks won.

Still, that Florida kick stings. It nagged at Succop all summer and even though the season starts Saturday, he's got to wait until Nov. 10 before facing the Gators again.

"It's something I'm looking forward to, but not more than any other game," he said. "I want to stay healthy enough to get (to that game) first."

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia

• TV: Pay-per-view

• Tickets: Available at 1-800-4SC-FANS