Florida football: Gators survive bull fight with USF, bring Ben Shelton back to The Swamp

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports

For the third straight Saturday, the No. 21-ranked Florida Gators played under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

And for the third consecutive game, the Gators (2-1) found themselves in a dogfight — this time with the University of South Florida Bulls (1-2) of Tampa. 

Saturday's matchup didn't have the same feel as Florida's first two games. The Bulls didn't enter Gainesville with a number in front of their name, nor do they have the distinction of being a conference opponent like the Wildcats did last week. 

But that didn't hinder Jeff Scott and USF from entering The Swamp and giving Florida a run for its money in an in-state battle that came down to the wire. 

Game recap:No. 21 Florida Gators survive scare against South Florida, 31-28, in Swamp

Scary night in The Swamp:No. 21 Florida Gators survive USF scare 31-28. Here are our takeaways.

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South Florida's Andrew Beardall (48) bobbles the hold as kicker Spencer Shrader (32) attempts to kick the game-tying field goal in the final seconds against the Florida Gators on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Florida won, 31-28.

Gators survive thanks to Spencer Shrader's shank

Special teams are the third and often forgotten facet of football.

Except there was no forgetting about the importance of special teams on Saturday night as USF's Spencer Shrader lined up for a 48-yard field goal with an opportunity to send the game into overtime with 23 seconds to play. 

The Bulls' junior kicker had nailed a 49-yarder with room to spare back in the second quarter. 

But an iffy snap and an even iffier hold caused Shrader to shank the game-tying field goal to the right, sealing the Gators' win over the Bulls and avoiding Billy Napier's second straight loss in The Swamp. 

Former Gators tennis star Ben Shelton becomes youngest 'Mr. Two Bits'

Ben Shelton might not be deemed old enough to purchase a beer, but he was deemed old enough to lead The Swamp's 88,496 spectators in the pregame "Two Bits" cheer on Saturday night. 

At 19 years old, Shelton became the youngest to be named honorary Mr. Two Bits. 

And with his racket in hand, he was sure to give the traditional cheer his own tennis twist. 

Shelton, who is the son of Florida men's tennis head coach Bryan Shelton, helped the Gators capture the 2021 NCAA team title and spend most of the 2022 season ranked as the top team in the country. 

And while Florida fell short of repeating as national champions, Ben Shelton went on to win the NCAA singles title before announcing his intentions of turning pro on Aug. 23. 

Shelton went on to make his professional tennis debut at the 2022 U.S. Open. 

Tom Petty's 'Won't Back Down' lights up The Swamp

After Tom Petty died on Oct. 2, 2017, Florida Gators football has honored the Gainesville native by playing his song "Won't Back Down" between the third and fourth quarters. 

And since the first rendition, Gators fans have lit up The Swamp using their cellphones during night games. 

However, Saturday night's edition of the spectacle was different thanks to the new "Gator Lights" initiative.

Gators fans were encouraged to use the Florida Gators app, which would flash their cellphone's flashlight to the beat of the music, during Petty's tribute. 

Here's how it turned out.