Tailback Mike Davis ripped off the Gamecocks biggest ground gain of the game with a 24 yard first down run in the second quarter. In fact, Davis picked-up 44 yards on five first down carries in the first half. Fullback Daccus Turman added 25 yards on three carries, one for a score on first down. His 15 yard pick-up in the third quarter was, you got it, on a first play too.
The Gamecocks passing game did not present the Gators secondary with problems throughout the day. That was particularly true on first down, at least before the intermission. Quarterback Blake Mitchell hit only one of five first down passes in the first half, a twelve yard hitch to Sidney Rice.
Spurrier adjusted his offense at the half. Mitchell threw only once in the second half on first down. The play went to Sidney Rice, who after Dee Webb lost his balance and Kyle Jackson failed to come up with the tackle, took the ball 64 yards down the far sideline to the Florida goal line. While the play gave Carolina another first down score that proved to be the difference in this game, the Gators certainly proved to be their own worst enemy. Webb appeared to have good position on the play, but lost his footing. Jackson should have made the tackle or at the very least been able to slow Rice down until help arrived.
Mitchell completed only 6 of 16 for 117 yards. He threw no touchdowns and, most importantly no interceptions. Spurrier seemingly shut him down in the second half. It was important for the Gamecocks to run some clock and continue generating some semblance of a running game to keep the Gator off balance.
The Gamecocks accumulated 155 yards of total offense (63%) on first down plays.
The Florida defensive front went through periods where they couldn't generate any pressure on Blake Mitchell. Obviously, Spurrier expected the Gators to sell out and get after Mitchell, which played a key role in springing Davis and Turman for first down yardage.
When the Gators were on the offensive side of the ball, the Gamecocks were able to pressure Leak with Florida trailing late in the fourth quarter. South Carolina's ends are not very big, but they did possess pretty good speed.
Credit South Carolina for taking care of the football. Spurrier told his team this week to make certain they took care of the football. He was very concerned about Florida's ability to take the ball away, and as most Florida fans remember, all he wanted was the ball.
They listened and it worked. Florida entered the game with a plus 17 turnover margin. Quarterback Blake Mitchell misfired on several throws, but those passes didn't come remotely close to being picked off by Florida defenders. You can bet that Spurrier put the fear of God into him regarding taking care of the football. Consequently, Florida quarterback Chris Leak had a tipped pass go for 48 yards to the four yard line. It was the only turnover by the Gators.
Eric Wilbur has perhaps his worst day for the Gators. He entered the game averaging 41.9 yards per punt. Today, Wilbur didn't hit one of his four punts for his average. Anybody who has watched Spurrier's offense since the early ‘80's knows that he always takes the direct route to the endzone. Getting him that much closer to paydirt will get you beat, every time. This time was no different.
One of the last things that you want to do in big game, especially on the road is give the opponent an early big play. Leak's tipped pass gave the Gamecocks an early spark.
Florida missed key opportunities when Chris Leak just overthrew Chad Jackson, who was running wide open fifteen yards from the end zone. Jackson had beaten the corner and the Carolina safety was late getting over on the play as well. Jackson seemingly could have made the play if he had dove for the ball. The field possession would have certainly helped the team.
Leak also missed a pass to Dallas Baker downfield. Baker had a step on the defensive back, and seemingly would have hauled in the pass had Leak gotten a little air under it and thrown it at a different trajectory. At the very least, the Gators might have picked up a flag that actually went against Carolina.
He didn't make the best decisions concerning the run or picking up open receivers either. It wasn't Leak's worst game, but it the Gators certainly needed more today.
Rice vs Webb
Freshman Sidney Rice was the games' leading receiver with five receptions for 112 yards. He beat cornerback Dee Webb in coverage early, particularly on a third and eleven play in the first quarter. Webb was also flagged for a personal foul and pass interference against Rice on the same second quarter series, which resulted in a South Carolina touchdown.
Webb gave Florida their first big play of the game when he blocked Josh Brown's PAT attempt after the Gamecocks scored their third touchdown.
Penalties are part of the game. But, the home cooking was evident in this one. There were four plays that I felt warranted better officiating.
Cornerback Reggie Lewis' was flagged for pass interference on Kenny McKinley late in the second quarter when Florida was trying to get the ball back and put some points on the board. There is no question that Lewis' had position on the play and the receiver ran right into him.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey was about to wrap Mitchell up early in the fourth quarter. Mitchell threw the ball away and didn't appear to be outside of the tackle box.
One play later, Webb was flagged for pass interference on Rice. The play was covered by two officials, only one of which threw his flag late. The phantom penalty gave South Carolina the ball at the Florida 27 and set them up for a field goal to make the score 30-19.
Dallas Baker appeared to have caught a pass that would have given Florida a first down and gotten them close to the South Carolina end zone. The official ruled that the ball was dropped. It didn't appear that way from my seat.
Besides eliminating Florida from a potential trip to Atlanta, the Carolina win created an instant rivalry. Attention throughout the nation is assured with Spurrier coming to Gainesville. Maybe now the players can generate a little more attention.