GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WIS) - Down by 24, things looked bleak for South Carolina in the third quarter.
However, the team made one last charge. The Gamecocks put up 10 points in the final 19 minutes to make things interesting, but the team’s inability to come up with two needed scores in the final minutes of the game would end their chances of taking down another ranked team for the second straight year as Carolina dropped its second straight game of the season in a 38-24 loss to No. 3 Florida.
“I felt like there were some self-inflicted wounds as far as drops, eye control defensively, and some other things we need to continue to improve,” Muschamp said. “They’ve got a good football team. I appreciate how our guys played and competed, but that’s not what we came here for. We came to win the game.”
Carolina opened the day with a score. With Collin Hill firing the ball early in the drive to move the team down the field, the Gamecocks shifted to the run game and Kevin Harris punctuated the drive with a 2-yard run to give Carolina the early 7-0 lead.
Florida quickly responded. The Gators provided a heavy dose of run plays and ultimately tied the game on a 2-yard run by Dameon Pierce making it a 7-7 game with 3:45 left in the first.
The Gators made the most of their passing attack in their next drive. Kyle Pitts came away with his fifth touchdown catch of the year with six seconds left in the quarter on an 18-yard pass from Kyle Trask. That made it 14-7 in favor of the Gators.
Dan Mullen’s team looked to add to their lead, but a fumble by Trask forced by Tonka Hemingway was recovered by Ernest Jones giving the Gamecocks great field position. Carolina took advantage of the takeaway and tied things again. The 9-play drive was finished off with a 4-yard screen pass to Shi Smith for the score making it 14-14.
From that point, Florida dominated the remainder of the quarter scoring 10 points including a second touchdown catch by Pitts pushing the Gators ahead 24-14.
Pitts had four catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns at the half. Trask was 14-of-17 passing for 175 yards after two quarters.
South Carolina was outgained 242-150 in the half.
Carolina put themselves in a tough position in the third quarter. On a toss play, Deshaun Fenwick lost the football and the Gators were able to recover it at the Carolina 38-yard line. On the ensuing possession, Carolina didn’t help themselves with two key penalties on defense. Florida took advantage of the miscues with Trask’s third touchdown pass on the day. Trent Whittemore was the recipient of the scoring pass and the Gators moved ahead 31-14 with 7:47 left in the third quarter.
“In that situation, we got beat in coverage," Muschamp said, "but then we had three guys go in there and try to thud the guy down. We don’t teach that.”
Trask wasn’t done. He threw his fourth touchdown pass on the crossing route to Kadarius Toney. The senior receiver made five Gamecocks miss on his way to the end zone to score on the 57-yard pass extending their lead to 38-14. The Gators scored 24 unanswered points making things a lot more difficult for Muschamp and company.
Trask was 21-of-29 on the day with 268 yards and four scores with an interception. He now has 10 touchdown passes in two games.
Carolina was able to cut into the lead in the fourth quarter. After a Parker White field goal in the third, the Gamecocks scored again on a quick 11-play drive where Harris found the end zone on his second touchdown of the day. The 9-yard catch made it a 38-24 game with 10:21 left in the game.
Harris had 100 yards on 22 carries and a rushing touchdown. He also had four catches for 27 yards and a score through the air.
South Carolina was able to get the ball back with just over eight minutes to go, but the Gamecocks used seven of those to get inside the Florida 5. In the end, that 18-play drive ended with Hill missing Smith in the end zone with 48 seconds to go.
“We were trying to get first downs. They were playing more coverage. They were staying on top. We weren’t able to get explosives down the field. We were taking what they were giving us. You still have a minute to play in the game with two timeouts and an onside kick. You have the opportunity to go win the game if you score."
The Gamecocks fall to 0-2 and will travel to Vanderbilt next week.