The 11th ranked Florida Gator football team (9-1, 7-1 SEC) finished its SEC regular season schedule with a 24-14 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-7, 1-7 SEC) Saturday in Columbia.
Heading in to the fourth quarter, the Gators held a 17-0 lead over the Gamecocks and had only allowed 44 total yards to a struggling South Carolina offense. But, in less than six minutes of game time, Florida found itself in a cock fight as Carolina put together two drives totaling 143 yards to cut the Florida lead to just three with under five minutes to play. If Florida could run the clock out, they could escape Columbia with a victory, easier said than done. At that point, Florida had only managed 93 yards on the ground on 38 carries and South Carolina forced the Gators in to a third and eight situation with just under three minutes to go.
The Florida offensive line answered the bell and opened up its biggest hole of the day as junior running back Kelvin Taylor galloped 53 yards all the way down to the Gamecock one yard line before punching it in on the very next play to give the Gators a 24-14 lead. Sophomore corner Quincy Wilson picked off South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth on the ensuing drive and secured the victory. The win gave Florida head coach Jim McElwain his seventh SEC victory on the season, the most by any first year Gator head football coach.
The Gator offense rebounded well after a tough outing versus Vanderbilt last weekend. Florida eclipsed the 400 yard mark for the third time this season, the other two coming against Georgia and New Mexico State. Quarterback Treon Harris threw for 256 yards on 19-of-33 passing with a 41-yard touchdown pass and two interceptions. Freshman running back Jordan Cronkrite had his first multi-touchdown game as a Gator as he ran one in and made a great catch on Harris’ lone touchdown pass.
Kelvin Taylor passed the century mark for the third time this season as he carried the ball 20 times for 105 yards and recorded his 12th rushing touchdown of the year. Offensive lineman Cam Dillard says the offense’s ability to close the game strong on that final scoring drive was good to see.
Florida also dominated the time of possession battle controlling the pigskin for close to 40 minutes of game time, their best mark in that category this season. The Gators put together drives of 15, 12, and another 12 plays that ran a total of 20 minutes off the clock. Tight end Jake McGee was happy to see the offense put together those drives.
The Florida defense benefited greatly from the extra time off the field as it continued its solid play by holding the Gamecocks to just five first downs through three quarters. South Carolina put together 157 yards of offense and eight first downs in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the other three. South Carolina totaled just over 200 yards of offense against a stingy Gator defense marking the fifth time this season an opponent has been held to less than 250 total yards. McElwain believes the offense’s performance allowed the defense to play at an even higher level.
Next up for the Gators is a home match up against the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-8, 2-5 Conference USA). FAU enters the game off of a 24-17 loss to Middle Tennessee where the Blue Raiders racked up over 475 yards of offense. The Owls allow an average of of 423 yards per game to their opponents, 88th in the country, and total close to 390 yards per outing, 77th in the FBS. McElwain expects to see an inspired Owls unit in Gainesville.
Kickoff between Florida and Florida Atlantic will be at noon next Saturday.