Gamecocks, Gators similar in many ways

Florida coach Will Muschamp sees a lot of similarities in his team and the one coming to town this weekend. No. 9 South Carolina is built to do things similar to what the Gators have done this fall. Both teams want to pound the ball on the ground with their running backs and dominate with outstanding defenses. Saturday will be about which team can do it the best.

"Their football team is a little similar to ours in running the ball and playing really good defense and winning in the kicking game," Will Muschamp said Monday morning.

The power running game of South Carolina is led by junior running back Marcus Lattimore. Quarterback Connor Shaw come into the season with experience as the starter, but he is improving as every game passes. Shaw's running ability creates tough spots for opposing defenses.

It's a lot like the Florida offense. The Gators feature running back Mike Gillislee on the ground, but as quarterback Jeff Driskel showed at Vanderbilt with a 177-yard rushing performance, he can still get the job done.

"Connor Shaw is just a winner, a guy that creates plays with his legs, does a lot of good things for their football team," Muschamp said. "They run the zone read with him, pocket movement stuff. The play is never dead with him. He can create so much with his legs, and he's a tough, hard-nosed, competitive guy, a guy you enjoy competing against because of the way he plays the game. He's a coach's son and a really, really good athlete."

Despite the rushing duo of Lattimore and Shaw, the Gamecocks are ninth in the Southeastern Conference with 160.4 rushing yards per game. Florida is second with 233.3.

What the Gamecocks lack in rushing stats, they make up for it in the air. The Gamecocks are seventh in the SEC with 217.9 passing yards per game. They'll use both effectively during games, but when the Gamecocks need a big play, it has come on the ground a lot this season. It isn't the typical throwing offense from head coach Steve Spurrier.

"I think that's what good coaches do, and I think that's what makes him the coach that he is," Muschamp said. "He's adapted to what maybe he wants to be or whatever to do what it takes to win football games. That's a credit to him."

It's not a surprise to Muschamp that Spurrier continues to have success at 67 years old. Growing up a Florida fan in Gainesville, Muschamp watched as Spurrier's offenses opened an assault against opposing defenses and scoreboards.

On Saturday, Spurrier will return to the visiting team's sideline in the stadium he named, featuring a statue of him in front of it. Spurrier's success in Gainesville made the Florida program what it is seen as today.

"His 12 years as head coach here probably will never be repeated," Muschamp said. "You look at six SEC titles and the 1990 season had the best record in the SEC, national championship and really put Florida on the map as far as winning championships in football. I've asked him before why it didn't happen before and he never gives me a good reason, but he just did a phenomenal job here as the head football coach. He's a guy that's very well respected and a guy that I've got a tremendous amount of respect for."

On the defensive side of the ball, it starts up front. Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor bring consistent pressure off the edge. Muschamp said they "are the two ends you've got to account for or they'll make you have a long day." The Florida offensive line suffered injuries on Saturday at Vanderbilt, giving the backups some experience, but Muschamp expects his line to all return on Saturday.

The linebacker position features former First Coast High School linebacker Shaq Wilson, who Muschamp called "instinctive."

The South Carolina secondary will be a big test for Florida. The passing game hasn't been as good as the coaches hoped going into the season, and they'll face their toughest test against the Gamecocks.

"Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, two outstanding corners, probably the best corner combination we've faced this year," Muschamp said. "D.J. Swearinger is an outstanding safety for them. Really good defensively."

INJURY REPORT: Muschamp said linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) was listed as "full speed and ready to go." Defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee) "should be ready to go." Center Jonotthan Harrison (arm) "should be ready to go."

Left guard James Wilson (eye) and left tackle Xavier Nixon (upper body) "should be fine."

The only player Muschamp was uncertain about is freshman receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle), and he was listed as questionable.

Muschamp also added that offensive tackle Matt Patchan (pec) and cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) could both return against Georgia.

LOOKING BACK AT VANDERBILT: Muschamp singled out the third down conversions and drops as the key parts of the game Florida needs to improve during the week of practice. The Gators converted on just 2-of-11 third down plays.

There were also coaching issues, as Muschamp indicated when the Gators came out of a timeout and had too many players on the field.

"Those are some situations as we move forward we cannot allow to happen," Muschamp said.

The Florida offensive player of the game wasn't a mystery. Driskel earned the honor after rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

"Jeff Driskel played outstanding," Muschamp said. "You could see in some of the zone-read situations on film, they obviously were going to try and take Mike Gillislee out of the game and that really opened some things up for Jeff. He really played well, made some very good decisions in the game and we're very proud of him."

The Florida defense didn't earn much praise from Muschamp. He was happy that the unit only allowed touchdown on two of Vanderbilt's five trips inside the red zone on Saturday.

After that, it was a bunch of criticism from the head coach.

"We didn't play very well," Muschamp said of the defense. "We had some mental errors, some communication, some eye control issues, third down—overall, I thought it was a very sloppy game defensively. We did not play well, didn't adjust well to some things that we had practiced and gone over and that Vanderbilt had showed before. I'm very disappointed in just how we played."

Jon Bostic was the defensive player of the game. He had five tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.

"He played extremely well, very productive," Muschamp said. "He was active in the middle and made a lot of plays. He got off blocks extremely well. Jon has really progressed this year as far as just his physicality of playing in the core of the formation. Playing blocks and disengaging and getting off of people. I'm real proud of him."

Without special teams, the Gators might not have won the game. The two-point conversion worked to perfection after the first touchdown, and the Gators executed a key fake punt later in the game. Andre Debose flipped field position late in the game with a big kickoff return, and Earl Okine added a blocked field goal.

Chris Johnson was named special teams player of the game because of three tackles inside the 20-yard line on kickoffs.

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