Another South Carolina game for the Gators, another lackluster first-half performance.
Eerily similar to last year, the Gators played the Gamecocks coming off of a loss. In 2018, Florida was coming off of a demoralizing 38-17 loss to Missouri at home when they played Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks — and trailed 28-31 come the fourth quarter.
While last year the Gators were able to scratch their way past the Gamecocks, this year was less of a struggle. While first-half woes were present, the Gators surged past South Carolina with 21 points scored in the fourth quarter.
By game’s end, towels and trash littered the field of Williams-Brice Stadium. All the while, the scoreboard showed a final score of 38-27 — Florida on top.
First half funk
Tied at 10 apiece at half time, the wet conditions in Columbia, South Carolina seemed to take the fire right out of both offenses — just like water is supposed to do.
Florida quarterback, Kyle Trask, who has had solid start after solid start, wrapped up the second quarter with just nine completions on 15 attempts for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Not only did Trask have a hard time controlling his passes in the rain, but the Gator receivers had trouble hauling in the football. Despite all the trouble through the air, Florida coach Dan Mullen continued with his pass-heavy offensive scheme in the first half.
With 10:08 to play in the second half, the Gators’ air-raid paid off when Trask found Jacob Copeland 37 yards down the field — good for a Florida Gator touchdown.
Of the 29 offensive plays for the Gators, just 13 stayed on the ground.
Meanwhile, South Carolina freshman quarterback, Ryan Hilinski, was in the same boat as Trask in terms of struggling in the elements. However, Hilinski’s boat was sinking much quicker.
Having gone just 4 of 12 in the opening half for just 69 yards, the Gamecocks were reliant on their ground game. Senior bell-cow, Tavien Feaster carried the ball well for the Gamecocks. In the first half, he mustered 61 yards on the ground behind 12 attempts — good for an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
South Carolina’s lone first-half touchdown came from the hands of senior power-back Mon Denson. However, a pair of offside penalties made Denson’s touchdown run much shorter.
As each team’s first-half struggles had come and gone, both squads were eager to get into the locker room.
Coming out, it appeared both teams were able to refocus on their tasks and crank the performance level up a few notches – though let it be noted that the rain had slowed for much of the third quarter.
The Gamecocks were quick to jab the Gators’ defense – a squad that had issues with missed tackles for the second week in a row, in addition to being without their star pass-rushers in Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga.
After just 63 seconds elapsed in the second half, South Carolina trotted down the field and got a a 21-yard touchdown run for Tavien Feaster. However, the Gators were quick to answer the call as Florida sophomore running back Dameon Pierce delivered a speedy 75-yard rush to the house – tying the game at 17.
Florida now has 3 rushing touchdowns of 75+ yards, the most in FBS this season. It's also the most in a single season in Florida's school history.
The Gators had 3 rushing touchdowns of 75+ yards in the 10 preceding seasons combined (2009-18). pic.twitter.com/L8HqZc6v2E
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 19, 2019
While Florida would give up a 31-yard Parker White field goal just before the start of the fourth quarter to break the stalemate, Dan Mullen’s Gators are no stranger to constructing come-from-behind wins against the Gamecocks.
The Florida defense was able to force the Gamecocks to punt from within their own end zone to give Kyle Trask and company desirable field position – a perfect way to stage a comeback.
With just 52 yards between the Gators and a score to take the lead, Florida’s backfield began chipping away at yardage. On six straight rushes and a nine yard pass to Kyle Pitts, the Gators got out to the South Carolina 25 yard line.
In the most dramatic, diving catch, Trask dropped a 25-yard dime to Freddie Swain, who caught the ball while levitating parallel to the turf – good for a score.
On the next defensive drive, the Gators finally forced Ryan Hilinski to succumb to their pressure as he coughed up the football to Florida’s Kyree Campbell. Once again, the Gator defense would wrap good field position in pretty wrapping paper, top it with a bow, and hand it over to Kyle Trask and the Gator offense.
Trask would toss two more touchdown passes before the end of the game, to give him a pretty stat line that read 21-for-33 for 200 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception.
The Manvel, Texas native would once again prove that he has what it takes to lead the Gator offense.
Basking in the Bye
With Saturday’s win, the Gators improve to 7-1 on the season.
The victory over South Carolina was an important SEC East pickup for the Gators. However, in two weeks, they will square off against Georgia in Jacksonville.
But before then, the Gators will bask in a much-needed bye week. The last three games for the Gators have been ruthless. Auburn, LSU and South Carolina have tested the Gators in every way possible – but especially the Gators’ health.
All season long, the Gators have battled injuries. Heading into the South Carolina game, Todd Grantham’s defense was without Greenard and Zuniga. However, over the course of the battle against the Gamecocks, the Gators also saw defensive tackle Adam Shuler and cornerback CJ Henderson go down – though it is unclear if these injuries are serious.
Nonetheless, the Gators need this bye week – they need to get healthy and focus on the big SEC East showdown in Jacksonville on November 2.