GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida moved a step closer to an SEC East championship by routing South Carolina and former coach Steve Spurrier on Saturday. The Gators didn’t look impressive on offense but -- as usual -- made some adjustments at halftime and were better in the second half.
Here are the good and the bad from the 44-11 victory at Florida Field, which marked the first time the Gators have beaten former coach Steve Spurrier without Tim Tebow on the roster:
1. Turnovers: CB Loucheiz Purifoy said after the game that the Gators noticed on film that South Carolina’s players didn’t carry the ball securely and they felt they would be able to force some turnovers. They got four, including Purifoy’s sack and strip of QB Connor Shaw on the game’s first offensive play that LB Lerentee McCray recovered at the 1-yard line. WR Solomon Patton forced a fumble on a kickoff return that was recovered by RB Chris Johnson and RB/FB Trey Burton forced and recovered a fumble on a punt return. More importantly, UF scored 21 points off those turnovers. UF also got an interception from S Jabari Gorman late in the fourth quarter.
2. Fantastic special teams: In addition to the two forced turnovers in the kicking game, the Gators dominated the Gamecocks on special teams. P Kyle Christy averaged 54.3 yards on seven punts and UF’s coverage units didn’t allow a kickoff return longer than 18 yards and a punt return longer than 1 yard. UF also blocked a field goal attempt. Caleb Sturgis did have a PAT blocked and returned for two points, but the game was over by then.
3. Rush defense: The Gators limited the Gamecocks to 42 yards rushing on 26 carries, which works out to 1.4 yards per carry. RB Marcus Lattimore didn’t play in the first quarter and got only three carries (13 yards), but said after the game that his bruised hip was fine. Florida did a particularly good job on Shaw, who hurt the Gators in last season’s meeting by rushing for 88 yards and a TD. He had nine carries for minus-2 yards on Saturday because the Gators stayed disciplined in their rush lanes.
1. Shaky OL play: Even with the return of LT Xavier Nixon, LG James Wilson and C Jonotthan Harrison, the Gators had trouble moving the Gamecocks’ defensive front to create space for RB Mike Gillislee, who managed only 37 yards on 19 carries. UF rushed for only 89 yards on 48 carries (1.9 per carry). The pass protection wasn’t much better, because the OTs couldn’t handle DEs Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Each recorded a sack and Clowney was in QB Jeff Driskel’s face all day. UF did a much better job containing LSU’s defensive front.
2. What was he thinking? After DT Sharrif Floyd blocked Adam Yates’ 44-yard field goal attempt, the ball bounced toward the goal line. The correct thing to do if you’re a UF player is let the ball roll dead so you can take possession from where the ball was snapped. Everybody seemed to know that, especially with special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin frantically waving his arms to warn the players away from the ball. Everyone listened except for DE Earl Okine, who picked up the ball at the 10 and was immediately tackled. That’s where the Gators took possession. Both Durkin and coach Will Muschamp gave Okine an earful when he got to the sideline.
3. Critical penalties: Florida hurt itself significantly with penalties during the first half. A roughing the snapper call on LB Antonio Morrison extended South Carolina’s second drive and the Gamecocks got 15 yards two plays later when LB Jelani Jenkins was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. South Carolina eventually kicked a field goal on that drive. UF also had a touchdown called back because of an illegal cut block by Gillislee and had an interception nullified because of an offside call on McCray. That penalty allowed the Gamecocks to kick a field goal at the end of the half.