The Tailgates’ Pat Dooley Grades the Gators after their 41-39 win Saturday against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.:
First half: The Gators came out firing and kept it going throughout the half with 293 total yards. Florida scored on all but one possession and Graham Mertz threw for 228 yards. The running game was so-so.
Second half: The third quarter was not great, but the final quarter put Mertz into Gator Legend status. He certainly got a break with the deflected pass that ended up in Tre Wilson’s hands, but this was an all-time great performance by an offense that basically abandoned the run.
For the game: It’s not often we give an A+ to an offense that was 4-of-14 on third-down tries. But to score 41 points in that environment was something special. The offense started and finished fast.
First half: What’s the deal with Florida’s defense on the road? The Gators were gashed repeatedly by a team that had struggled to run the ball. South Carolina ended up with 80 rushing yards and ball awareness was an issue on Spencer Rattler’s passes.
Second half: The defense struggled in the second half, which is one big reason Florida was down 37-27 after the first play of the fourth quarter. But Miguel Mitchell’s interception made Florida’s comeback hold up.
For the game: It was an old-fashioned shootout and Florida’s defense helped make it one. Who would have thought that the Gators could give up 465 yards on the road and still win the game?
SPECIAL TEAMS B+
First half: Trey Smack continued to make his kicks, including field goals of 48 and 44 yards. The Gators also did a great job of covering his one short kickoff and a good job of fielding and advancing a short opening kickoff by the Gamecocks.
Second half: The Smack Show continued in the second half with a 54-yard field goal. Unfortunately, another field goal attempt was blocked. Jeremy Crawshaw’s last punt of the game was his most important one and it was a gem.
For the game: The special teams did a lot of good things in this game and Smack’s performance would have garnered a rare A-grade if not for the line letting South Carolina block one. This is the first game on the road without a huge mistake.
This was a game Florida badly needed and to be down 10 with 9:11 to play and come back and win on the road might be the step forward Florida needed. There was a lot of young talent on that field for UF and that should be encouraging to everyone.