Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer did not plan it like this. He did not expect his team to get trounced at home on Saturday, less than one week after calling for The Swamp to be covered in blue as extra motivation for Florida to win what would have been its 12th Southeastern Conference East division title. Instead what Meyer and the No. 22 Gators (6-4, 4-4 SEC) received was a manhandling by the No. 23 South Carolina Gamecocks (7-3, 5-3 SEC) and head coach Steve Spurrier, who led his team to a 36-14 victory for their first SEC East championship.
Winless in their previous 12 games in Gainesville, FL, South Carolina finally got their first victory in a dominant performance that saw them rush for 239 yards compared to Florida’s 35. Running back Marcus Lattimore accounted for 212 of them on 40 carries while also notching three touchdowns.
The Gators moved away from the three-quarterback offense that did them so well the last two weeks, relying on redshirt junior QB John Brantley the majority of the game. He had arguably his worst performance as a starter, going 16-of-31 for 130 yards and an interception. Brantley did not have much help, however, as Florida’s play calling was suspect and its playmakers were held silent.
In fact, after redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, UF did not score again until redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey took a pass from redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed for a touchdown with 7:12 in the fourth quarter.
Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia handed his team’s offense well, going 15-of-22 for 156 yards, finding WR Alshon Jeffery six times for 53 yards and keeping 12 balls for 28 yards on the ground and one score.
Florida struggled converting third downs, only doing so twice in 14 tries on the evening, and also had difficulty getting South Carolina off the field letting them convert 50 percent of their attempts (8-of-16). USC outgained UF 395-226 yards and possessed the ball for 40:46 compared to only 19:14 on the other side.
Though the game was seemingly out of reach due to their anemic offense, the Gators also turned the ball over twice late in the game including a tipped Brantley pass that was intercepted and a mishandled handoff from Brantley to junior running back Jeff Demps that was recovered.
UF now hopes to salvage what is left of their season as they take on Appalachian State next week in what will be Florida’s Senior Day – their final home game of the year.
Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press