The defense struggled early in the game, allowing 10 points in the first two drives while South Carolina threw the ball up and down the field. The Gators couldn’t get off the field, but when the Gamecocks started to lean more on the run, the Florida defense got stops and off the field.
Late in the game, that changed. The Florida defense was already in a bad position as South Carolina took over at the UF 34 following the blocked punt with 39 seconds left. Dylan Thompson avoided the pass rush and hit Mike Davis for a 27-yard gain on the first play.
“He scrambled and bought himself time,” Will Muschamp said. “We lost a guy in coverage. He hit Davis down the sideline. Thought we defended the ball well down there several times. They got us on the speed option for the touchdown.”
In overtime, 20 of South Carolina’s 25 yards while scoring came on the ground. They came into the overtime period with just 75 rushing yards, but Davis continued to run hard and move the chains before Thompson kept it for a four-yard touchdown to end the game with a 23-20 win for the Gamecocks.
“I think they just hit some good runs on us there,” Muschamp said. “They were fresh. They have good backs. They rotate those guys in there pretty good. There was one second-down situation, we were lost on the edge there and they gained six yards. They didn’t gash us or anything. We just need to tackle better and play the box better up front.”
The Gators had two sacks but ended the game with nine quarterback hurries -- four from Dante Fowler alone. When the defense started to improve after the first two South Carolina drives, it was because of the pass rush. Thompson was athletic enough to elude it at times, but the consistent pass rush was enough to make him uneasy in the second half.
“I thought we got pretty good pressure throughout the day,” Muschamp said. “He does a nice job buying time. He’s got good pocket presence. He did a nice job.”
LOCKER ROOM: Florida players said the mood of the locker room was predictably sad, but the Gators have to do their part to keep the team upbeat and get bowl eligible next week against Eastern Kentucky. The players insist there won’t be finger pointing and they’ll be ready to go next week.
“It was just collectively that we lost the game,” Florida right tackle Chaz Green said. “You can’t look at one person, we don’t get involved with that because then it looks like you point the finger if you want to pick up somebody. We need to pick each other up as a team, everybody.”
Florida safety Jabari Gorman added, “We’re always unified, no matter what. There’s no finger pointing. We work all offseason and always talk about staying together no matter what.”
HARRIS RUN GAME: The plan wasn’t to run quarterback Treon Harris as much as he did on Saturday. The Gators liked the look they had against South Carolina to run him, and the freshman quarterback ended the day with 20 carries for 111 yards.
“It was more of what they were doing as much as anything,” Muschamp said. “Things presented themselves, some things opened up in the run game for him that we were able to capitalize on and we were pretty effective doing it.”