GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The Florida Gator football team defeated former head coach Will Muschamp and his South Carolina Gamecocks, 20-7 Saturday in Gainesville to go undefeated in The Swamp this season. There’s no question that the return of Muschamp was a big topic of discussion this week, but was it bigger than the amount of injured Gators?
Last Saturday, Florida left Arkansas with a loss and a lot of players added to the injury report—a total of nine key players essential to Florida’s game-plan…week after week. Fans cringed at the sight of “double trouble” linebackers, Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis going down. And a host others like center Cam Dilliard, running back Mark Herndon, receiver C.J. Whorton, and defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson…and starting quarterback Luke Del Rio.
Everyone knows injuries mean, “next man up.” Well, that resulted in back up quarterback Austin Appleby getting his second start of the season and his first (and last) start in The Swamp. The senior got his first start in the trip to Tennessee. He showed signs of potential and hope in the first half against the Volunteers, but the second half resulted in a rivalry loss that left a sour taste in Gator fans’ mouth. Now, with SEC East standings on the line and the return of a criticized former head coach—The Gator Nation was skeptical.
Appleby threw two touchdowns and completed 17 of his 21 passes. He had help around him from players who stepped up in place of injured starters. Tyler Jordan was there at center for Cam Dillard, but his day ended after the first snap of the game. This called for third string center T.J. McCoy to step in. Starting left tackle David Sharpe was injured in the game and Kavaris Harkless stepped in and stood out for the Gators.
However, it was the hard-hitting and arguably one the best defenses in the country that took the biggest hit.
They were already down starting linebackers and some linemen, but then defensive back Marcus Maye was slow to get up near the South Carolina sideline in the first quarter, after bringing down a Gamecock. Will Muschamp was there to make sure he was okay. Shortly after Maye left and did not return, defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. also went down to add to the list of defensive players that were hurt.
With the amount of players missing from the field, one would think this would be a disastrous game for Florida.
Marcell Harris, who replaced Marcus Maye, made his presence known with back-to back defensive stops—one being an interception.
The SEC’s second-best defense forced South Carolina to have just 256 yards of offense with quarterback Jake Bentley completing only 18 of his 33 passes. The Gamecock’s first half resume showed a handful of punts and a few turnovers. Will Muschamp’s team didn’t score until the fourth quarter.
On Senior Day, when some seniors could not play and others were hurt during the game, the team fought through it and put on a show for their last home game of the season.
The Gators who were left on the field, chomped one out for the seniors on a day they probably won’t forget.
Florida will head to Baton Rouge next week to face LSU—with a probably a long list of injuries again.