College Sports

Succop in spotlight as USC prepares for Gators

COLUMBIA -- Ryan Succop's seen the endless replays, heard the crowd double its noise level and felt the ball come off his foot hundreds of times since that fateful day, one year ago come Sunday.

It never gets any easier.

"I feel like, you know, a little sick to your stomach there that we couldn't get that last play," South Carolina's junior place-kicker said earlier this year. "We had a great chance to beat them, probably should have beat them."

The Gamecocks lost to Florida last year, 17-16. Losing by a point was only the tip of the iceberg.

USC lost on a blocked field goal at the end of regulation. Succop, virtually automatic all season, had three blocked kicks in the same game. The Gators went on to win the national championship and the Gamecocks were sitting at home watching them, every one of them knowing if that kick had just cleared Jarvis Moss' outstretched hand, Florida wouldn't have even been in that game.

The loss can't be blamed solely on Succop's shoulders. It's not his responsibility to block for himself when kicking.

But he's been bearing the spotlight for the past year, because he was the guy who could have won the game, and didn't.

"I don't mind answering questions about it," Succop said. "It is what it is that he made that play and we'll just try and move on and do better in the future."

Florida returns to Columbia on Saturday and Succop said he isn't putting any special emphasis on it. No revenge scenario or anything like it.

Probably a good thing -- it's been a tough couple of weeks for Succop already without adding any extra pressure.

Two weeks ago at Tennessee, Succop shanked a field goal wide right in the first overtime that let the Volunteers off the hook. Not to say the Gamecocks would have definitely won -- if Succop had made it, the game would have gone to double-OT.

But again, he was the guy on the field performing the last play.

"The second kick, I just thank God for being in the position that I was, and it's unfortunate I didn't make it, but I'd like to move on from here," he said afterward. "It just came off the foot a little bit to the right, so ... everybody's pretty upset, but we can't hang our heads from here."

Succop also found out this week he didn't make the semifinal list for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best kicker. Although he's only missed four of his 16 attempts all season (all from at least 40 yards), he was snubbed.

After three straight losses, everybody's morale has taken a hit, although coach Steve Spurrier said it wouldn't be a problem this week.

"We've been competitive, although we got trampled, I guess is the word, last week," Spurrier said. "We're staying positive around here."

Which includes Succop. All he can do is keep kicking, and at least there's one positive in his corner -- Moss and Ray McDonald, who combined for the three blocks last year, are gone.

"I just feel blessed to be in the situation I'm in here," he said.

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