GAINESVILLE, FL (WIS) - South Carolina was up 31-14 against No. 15 Florida midway through the third quarter. However, the Gators fought back scoring 21 unanswered points using a physical rushing attack to take a 35-31 win over the Gamecocks.
“If you can’t stop the run, you’re going to have a hard time winning,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. "That’s the bottom line. When you give up 367 yards rushing and we have guys at the point of attack, whipped up front. … It’s very, very frustrating. I thought the key to winning was tackling their backs and we knew they were going to try to run the football. We had guys there, couldn’t get guys on the ground consistently well and stay off the field on third-down when they’ve got manageable down and distances.
“We played well enough offensively to win the game. Rushed for 150 yards, threw for 240 (yards) -- you ought to win the football game. We were very good, especially in the first half on third-down, offensively. But defensively, then ability in having guys at the point of attack and not getting guys on the ground. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s where we are. It’s a hard, tough loss. We had our opportunities. Give Florida credit. They made plays they had to at the end.”
South Carolina got off to another fast start Saturday afternoon in Gainesville. With Jake Bentley going 7-of-7 on the first drive, the junior led the Gamecocks on their first scoring drive ending it with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jacob August. The 13-play drive nearly took six minutes off the clock and made it a 7-0 game.
The Gamecocks added to their lead on their second drive. With the running game picking up chunks of yards, that set up Bentley’s second touchdown pass. The junior found Kyle Markway for a 19-yard touchdown pass making it 14-0 with 4:51 in the first quarter.
Florida got on the board for the first time in the second quarter. A lengthy 13-play drive that spanned 75 yards was punctuated with a 2-yard carry by Lamical Perine into the end zone. That six-minute scoring drive made it 14-7 with 13:46 left in the half.
The Gators were able to tie it up later in the quarter thanks to their rushing attack. After picking up several yards on the ground, Feleipe Franks scored on a 10-yard run to tie things up 14-14 with 8:58 left in the half.
However, South Carolina regained the lead late in the second quarter. The Gamecocks put together a 13-play drive with Jake Bentley capped it off with a 1-yard quarterback dive to put USC back on top 21-14.
South Carolina has outgained 241-190 at the half.
The Gators forced the Gamecocks to go three and out on their first drive of the second half. However, a muffed punt by Kadarius Toney was recovered by Deebo Samuel to give the team another scoring opportunity. Carolina cashed in on the turnover with 34-yard field goal by Parker White extending the Carolina lead to 24-14.
The Gamecocks continued to roll on offense. With the goal post essentially at their backs, Deebo Samuel came away with an 89-yard reception flipping the field and getting the Gamecocks inside the Florida 5-yard line. Two plays later, Rico Dowdle scored on a 4-yard option run giving USC a 31-14 lead with 4:41 left in the quarter.
Florida wouldn’t go away quietly. The Gators cut the lead down to 10 points. Toney makes up for his muffed punt by taking a screen pass 18 yards for the score making it 31-21. The Gators added two more rushing touchdowns from Perine and Franks to complete the rally. Both Perine and Franks had two rushing touchdowns on the day.
Florida outgained South Carolina 340-145 in the second half with 240 yards rushing to help come away with the win. In total, the Gators racked up 367 rushing yards to finish the day with 528 total.
South Carolina falls to 5-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play. They’ll host Chattanooga next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.