25 Best Moments in The Swamp: No. 7 — Li-to! Li-to! Li-to!

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Florida's Lito Sheppard takes off on a punt return against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in this Nov. 11, 2000 game. [ CINDY SKOP/STAR-BANNER/File]

It was June of 1992 when Steve Spurrier, fresh off Florida’s first official SEC title, called The Sun columnist Mike Bianchi with a new name for the stadium that would eventually bear his name.

The Swamp. 

In the years that followed, there have been some unbelievable games and players. Sun writers Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu came up with their rankings of the 25 best moments since 1992 when Spurrier gave it that moniker. 

No. 7 — Nov. 11, 2000

Li-to! Li-to! Li-to!

The set-up: The game was for the SEC Eastern Division between No. 5 Florida and No. 21 South Carolina, a program that had been resuscitated by coach Lou Holtz. It looked good early for the Gamecocks when they blocked a pair of Allen Rhine punts and returned them for touchdowns to make it 21-3. Florida rallied behind back-up quarterback Jesse Palmer, getting one score on a deflected passes that was caught and run into the end zone by guard Tommy Moody. 

The moment: The tight first half would end on a punt by South Carolina, but the crowd knew the scoring wasn’t finished. The whole stadium began to chant, “Li-to! Li-to! Li-to!” as he dropped back for the return. Sure enough, Sheppard caught a low punt, made a man miss, found a path and took off for the end zone scoring with two seconds left on the clock, leaving Holtz with his mouth agape in disbelief on the sidelines. Florida would take a 31-21 lead into the locker room.

The result: Florida shut down the Gamecocks in the second half and won 41-21 to earn a trip to Atlanta. There, the Gators would handle Auburn in a rematch to win Steve Spurrier’s sixth and final SEC title. Florida lost to  Miami in the Sugar Bowl and finished the season ranked 10th.

The quote: “We made a highlight reel for Florida. (Sheppard’s) punt return was critical. That’s what put the nail in our players’ hearts.” — Holtz.

Editor’s note: You have one Swamp game moment that comes to mind? Tell us what it is. Maybe it’s already on our Top 25 list. We’ll update readers on top moments from fans as the countdown proceeds.

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