Florida football vs. South Carolina score, takeaways: Gators impress in bounce-back win

By Adam Silverstein
November 10, 2018
Florida football vs. South Carolina score, takeaways: Gators impress in bounce-back win
Football

Image Credit: UAA Communications

The No. 15 Florida Gators looked to be on their way to a third straight blowout loss in the Sunshine State. But instead of relenting as they did a week ago on homecoming, the Gators stood tall and tough in the second half, coming back from 17 points down to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks 35-31 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

That’s not to say all went well for Florida, which again struggled on defense and put its offense in an exceedingly difficult spot by basically giving South Carolina anything it wanted over the first half of the game. Still, the Gators won a game they would have most certainly lost a year ago, so that should be considered a step in the right direction. Let’s take a look at what we learned Saturday as Florida (7-3, 5-3 SEC) concluded its Southeastern Conference campaign.

1. Credit where it’s due: Unlike earlier in the season where redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks received praise in this space for plays he made with his arm, on Saturday, it was his legs that earn him a break for one more week. Franks took 16 carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina, and while the yardage does not appear significant, his effort and toughness on those carries was massive over the final three quarters of the game. Franks was also turnover free, completing 15-of-21 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, though there were two near fumbles and two near interceptions over the course of the afternoon.

Whether Franks would have started on Saturday if classmate Kyle Trask did not suddenly break his foot this week in practice is almost irrelevant at this point; Trask certainly would have seen significant action in the game, particularly after the Gators trailed 14-0 in the first quarter. What matters is that Franks did not back down when his back was against the wall. Head coach Dan Mullen altered his play calling to a run-first plan (which it should have been from the start), and it worked as he called runs at a nearly 3-to-1 ratio in the contest. Franks managed that well and made key throws when necessary. Most importantly, he allowed Mullen to stop thinking about potentially burning the redshirt of freshman Emory Jones, who can now sit out against Idaho and play the final two games of the season without losing a year of eligibility.

Franks hushed the crowd twice after scoring his rushing touchdowns; whether you want to consider that a heel turn for the quarterback or simply a method of confidence building is irrelevant. He had every right. Junior running back Lamical Perine did the same in the contest. Fans booed Franks early in the first quarter, but he got the opportunity to prove them wrong. “I hushed the crowd today, honestly,” said Perine, “if you want to be real. So I don’t put that against him. I just feel like he’s a competitor. That’s something he does. It can hurt him sometimes, and also it can help — like today.”

2. Third-and-Grantham is not off the hook: First thing’s first … Florida did fix its third-down woes … on offense. The Gators converted 10 of 16 tries on the money down (.625) after managing a combined 26 percent the last two weeks. But on defense, it was much of the same. South Carolina converted 5 of 6 third-down attempts to open the game, all on the first two drives to take its 14-point lead; its third scoring drive did not even include a third down. Florida did stand tall and force USC to finish 2 of 7 on that down, but still, it converted at a 7 of 13 rate (.538). That means the Gators have allowed their last three opponents to go 26 of 45 on third down (.578), which is not winning football.

As such, despite a fourth-quarter shutout, Florida gave up 31 points or more in three straight games for the first time since 1917. You read that right — 1917. The Gators also allowed their opponents to score 30+ in three consecutive games for the first time since 1999. No matter how you slice it, that’s bad. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his penchant for blitzing is primarily to blame, though Florida has also been undisciplined missing a number of tackles on the second level. Grantham’s job status should be a topic of conversation, particularly if this is again an issue against Florida State in two weeks.

3. Run, Gators, run: It was not only Franks who did great on the ground Saturday. Redshirt senior running back Jordan Scarlett absolutely beasted, toting 18 carries for a career-high 159 yards. His 8.8 yards per carry were also a career-best for a game in which he got double-digit touches. Perine was the one who found paydirt, however, taking 16 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Kadarius Toney was the king of tosses, taking two plus two direct snap runs for 51 yards. (He also had two receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.) In all, Florida carried 62 times for 367 yards and four touchdowns on 5.9 yards per attempt. That’s the best rushing day for the Gators since the 2014 Florida-Georgia game that no one will soon forget.

Odds and ends: Florida is the fourth SEC team with multiple comebacks of 17+ points in a single season over the last 15 years, per ESPN Stats & Info … senior WR Josh Hammond caught five passes for the second straight week, totaling 35 yards on Saturday … the Gamecocks outgained the Gators through the air 239-161, but that figure was seriously reversed on the ground, 367-147 … each team committed seven penalties … UF had 15 more first downs and snapped the ball 19 more times (83-64) … freshman kicker Evan McPherson missed his first* field goal of the season, he is now 14 for 15* … sophomore cornerback C.J. Henderson notched the team’s first turnover in three games, picking off South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley late in the fourth quarter to ice the game … Toney fumbled a punt that led to a field goal for the Gamecocks … Florida improved to 27-9-3 all-time against South Carolina with a 15-2 record in The Swamp (both losses have come since 2011) … UF is now 5-2 against unranked opponents this season … the Gators are 6-0 under Mullen when outrushing their opponent … Florida has scored in 382 consecutive games, an NCAA record

* McPherrson had a made FG counted as a miss against Kentucky, his actual total is 13 for 15

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