No. 11 Florida Gators football (9-1, 7-1 SEC) was a wire-to-wire victor on Saturday, ending its Southeastern Conference schedule with a decisive 24-14 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.
In leading the Gators to a 7-1 league record, head coach Jim McElwain set a new mark for SEC wins (seven) as a first-year coach at Florida. McElwain also tied four coaches for most total victories (nine) … and that’s with two regular-season and up to five total games remaining.
Here are five immediate takeaways from the Gators’ latest victory.
Defense falters late: The Gators’ defense was once again outstanding for the vast majority of Saturday’s game, until a couple of late passes exposed Florida’s secondary for two touchdowns. A throwback pass from wide receiver Pharoh Cooper to quarterback Perry Orth resulted in the Gamecocks’ first score, and Orth returned the favor to Cooper to give South Carolina 14 points in just over four minutes. Even as UF’s offense struggled, the defense held South Carolina to under 100 yards for most of the game. In the end, USC finished with 177, 55 of which came on the two scoring plays. Sophomore defensive backs Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson each picked off a pass, and the Gators also forced two fumbles but failed to recover either. UF finished with four sacks and six tackles for loss.
Welcome back, kid: After being suspended for two halves and sitting out the second half of Florida-Vanderbilt, freshman running back Jordan Cronkrite made a couple big plays for the Gators on Saturday, including wrestling away an interception (from former UF commit Chris Lammons) and turning it into a 41-yard touchdown to put his team up 14-0 in the opening half. Cronkrite also scored a three-yard rushing touchdown to put the first points on the board for Florida. Overall, he finished with 73 total yards and two scores.
[K]losing it out: Junior RB Kelvin Taylor was bottled up for most of the afternoon, but his game-sealing 53-yard run on 3rd and 8 late in the fourth quarter was as big as one could ask for from the third-year player. Taylor rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown on the next play, finishing Saturday’s game with 101 yards and a score. It was his third 100-yard game of the season (second in three weeks) and the fourth of his career.
Still shaky at quarterback: Anyone still holding onto the notion that a drop-off between redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris would be minimal needs to change their mind. Harris made a handful of quality throws Saturday but was mostly shaky and off-target while going 19-for-33 with 256 yards and two interceptions to his lone touchdown. Harris’s first turnover came on a third-down play in the end zone near the end of the first half as UF was prepared to go up three scores on South Carolina.
Moving the ball: Though Harris struggled and the Gators did not succeed running the ball (aside from Taylor’s long gain), Florida’s first two scoring drives were long ones – 15 plays for 87 yards and 12 plays for 76 yards. The team found a way to gain chunks of yards and did so with seven players registering receptions, three of which caught three or more passes. UF also finished 12-of-20 on third and fourth down conversions.
Everything else: Will be added soon.