Gators Can't Secure Win Against Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The same mistakes that cost Florida games in October came back to hurt the Gators on Saturday. Penalties and fumbles at the wrong time allowed South Carolina to secure a 17-12 win over Florida. The Gamecocks ran at will for 215 yards over the Florida defense while only combining to throw the ball 13 times.

"We've had three games where we had our opportunities," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. "It comes back to turnovers and critical errors. We've got to execute in situations, and that comes back on me. We've got to do a better job in those critical downs."

The frustrating part for Florida is that it has become a theme. In the team's last four games, the Gators have had a chance to win the game late. Lack of discipline and stops on defense have been the issue, but it was a costly penalty that hurt Florida late on Saturday.

With the Gamecocks faced with a 3rd and 2 at their own 28-yard line with just over four minutes remaining, Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley jumped offside to give South Carolina a first down. The Gamecocks ran the ball to kill more clock before Florida got a stop and had the ball back with just 42 seconds to go.

John Brantley was sacked to end the game.

"It's real simple," Muschamp said about Easley's penalty. "We got the guy out of the game and put the next guy in."

Depth continues to be an issue for the Gators. South Carolina ran for 160 yards on the ground in the first half because the Florida offense couldn't sustain a drive to give them rest. With an already thin defensive line, it was a recipe for disaster for Florida.

"We're not deep enough," Muschamp said. "We don't have enough numbers. It's real simple—just look at the roster.

"We have good talent, but we don't have enough numbers."

Florida secured its first sub-.500 SEC record since 1986 with the loss. It was also the first time South Carolina beat the Gators in back-to-back years since 1936 and 1939.

After starting the season 4-0, the lack of depth and injuries hurt Florida's chances to improve.

"We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU," Muschamp said. "The rest of us, you could throw us in a sack and shake us up."

Despite the struggles, Muschamp remains optimistic about where the program is heading. It wasn't the ideal way for his team to end the conference schedule, but the head coach sees building blocks for the future.

"I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results," Muschamp said. "I know all you're worried about is results, and that's what everybody wants. I do, too. It's about winning and I get that. In the big picture of things, we've played blocks better up front and done a better job in the run game against a quality defensive team.

"Are we going to get there? Yeah, we're going to get there."

CAN'T STOP THE RUN: South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds ran the ball for 121 yards on 29 carries, but his yardage didn't hurt Florida the most. That came from South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.

The sophomore rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns, burning the Gators on the ground.

"A lot of the run game in the first half was quarterback scrambles," Muschamp said. "Pass rush discipline has been an issue.

"He did a nice job of creating some plays, and two times we were there and just have to make a tackle. You have to finish the play on critical third downs."

OFFENSIVE STILL SLOW: The blame for the offensive struggles is from every angle. The offensive line struggled again with pass protection, allowing three sacks and constantly being in the Florida backfield to rush Brantley's throws. Muschamp acknowledged after the game that Brantley's ankle is still an issue, too.

The South Carolina defensive line kept Florida from having any attack through the air.

"They're good up front," Muschamp said. "They're talented. They've recruited very well and are deep. They roll a bunch of guys in there."

The Gators had three three-and-outs in a row during the first half. The running game was jumpstarted by Chris Rainey during the second half, but it wasn't enough to get Florida back in the game.

"We got the run game going in the second half," Muschamp said. "We didn't get any sustaining in the first half. We have to continue what we are and what we're doing, and believe me, we've been searching."


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