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Clutch kick leads Gators’ Austin Hardin to Sunshine State Player of Week

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One kick. That’s all.

One kick, with all the pressures of a game that was going wrong, of the SEC East title in the air, with another kicker doing your job.

One kick, and it changed everything.

The University of Florida’s Austin Hardin made that kick, a 43-yarder, to pull out a 9-7 victory over Vanderbilt Saturday. He had been benched after going three-for-seven on the year, but with the game on the line, the Gators gave him a second look. He nailed it.

For that kick, Hardin is the Sunshine State Player of the Week.

True, other players had days where they made more plays for their team. But no one had a play that meant more than Hardin, whose kick salvaged his season and got the Gators to the SEC Championship game.

Other players who were considered included FSU running back Dalvin Cook, who had 194 yards, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison, who had 11 tackles, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, who threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, South Florida’s Marlon Mack, who ran for 117 yards, FIU’s Alex McGough, who threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns, and UCF’s Justin Holman, who threw for 293 yards and two scores.

None of them had a single play more important than Hardin’s. Neal MacInness had earlier missed an extra point, so the Gators trotted Hardin onto the field.

The Sunshine State Player of the Week award is a weekly honor given by the SaintPetersblog.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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