‘Gut-wrench­ing’ as Game­cocks start fast, fall short to Ga­tors

Game­cocks start fast, fall short against Ga­tors in The Swamp

The State (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOSH KEN­DALL jk­endall@thes­tate.com

Will Muschamp’s strug­gles at The Swamp con­tin­ued on Satur­day.

South Carolina lost a 17-point se­cond half lead and fell to No. 19 Florida 35-31 in front of 82,696 fans in Ben Hill Grif­fin Sta­dium, where Muschamp pre­vi­ously served as the Ga­tors head coach.

“When you come on the road in our league and have the op­por­tu­nity we had to­day, it’s gut-wrench­ing,” Muschamp said. “It’s one you’ll carry for a while. As much as we put into it, it’s go­ing to hurt. It’s frus­trat­ing.” The Game­cocks (5-4 over­all, 4-4 SEC) led 31-14 af­ter Rico Dow­dle scored on a 4-yard run with 4:41 left in the third quar­ter, and South Carolina still led by 18 points with 16 min­utes left in the game, but the Ga­tors scored 21 unan­swered from that point.

“Coach said it best, it hurts,” said quar­ter­back Jake Bent­ley, who threw for 239 yards, two touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion. “It’s go­ing to hurt for a lit­tle bit be­cause of how hard we pre­pared and the love we have for one an­other on the team. I think our lead­er­ship has got to step up and get our mind set on Chat­tanooga now. There is still stuff to play for. That’s for sure.”

Florida (7-3, 5-3) rushed for 367 yards and scored four of its five touch­downs on the ground against a Game­cocks de­fense ranked 12th in the SEC against the run. It was the most yards rush­ing al­lowed by the Game­cocks since LSU gained 396 in 2015, Steve Spurrier’s fi­nal game as the South Carolina head coach.

For the first three quar­ters, the game be­longed to the Game­cocks who were look­ing to snap an eight-game los­ing streak against ranked teams. Muschamp has now lost eight of his last 10 games as a head coach in The Swamp. His last

SEC vic­tory in Gainesville came on Sept. 13, 2014, in a 36-30 over­time win over Ken­tucky.

“It’s a hard, tough loss. We had our op­por­tu­nity,” Muschamp said. “Give Florida credit, they made the plays they had to in the end.

The loss means South Carolina, which hasn’t beaten a ranked team since Oct. 29, 2016, will fin­ish the sea­son fourth in the SEC East.

THREE POINTS

Star of the game: South Carolina se­nior wide re­ceiver Deebo Sa­muel fin­ished with 201 all-pur­pose yards, in­clud­ing the long­est re­cep­tion of his ca­reer, an 89yard gain that set up the Game­cocks’ fourth touch­down of the game. It was the seventh-long­est pass­ing play in South Carolina his­tory. Sa­muel also re­cov­ered a Florida punt while play­ing the gun­ner po­si­tion on the punt team.

Play of the game: Af­ter South Carolina had stopped Florida on three plays from the 2-yard line, Ga­tors quar­ter­back Feleipe Franks scored on a 1-yard touch­down run on fourth-and-goal for the de­ci­sive score with 4:09 left in the game. It was Florida’s first lead of the game.

Stat of the game: The Game­cocks ran 25 plays for 145 yards in the se­cond half. They gained 89 yards on Sa­muel’s catch and 56 on the other 24 plays for an av­er­age of 2.3 yards on those plays. “We were run­ning the same things in the se­cond half that we did early in the game and had a lot of suc­cess (in the first half),” Muschamp said. “We called the same things we were call­ing to get to that point.”

OB­SER­VA­TIONS

Allen-wil­liams, Ster­ling out: De­fen­sive ends Bryson Allen-wil­liams and Aaron Ster­ling did not make the trip to Florida due to in­juries. Al­len­williams suf­fered an an­kle in­jury against Ole Miss, and Ster­ling suf­fered a knee in­jury. Allen-wil­liams will miss at least the re­main­der of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Muschamp said af­ter the game. The Game­cocks moved de­fen­sive tackle Keir Thomas to end to start the game and gave Kobe Smith the se­cond start of his ca­reer at de­fen­sive tackle.

The Surly Swamp: Florida’s fans were antsy as the game started. The Ga­tors al­ready had lost to Ken­tucky and Mis­souri at home in head coach Dan Mullen’s first year with the school. Florida fans booed Franks af­ter a first quar­ter in­com­ple­tion, and Franks made a shush­ing mo­tion to his home fans af­ter scor­ing on a 10-yard run in the se­cond quar­ter to tie the score at 14-14. The boos came back out in force in the third quar­ter when the Ga­tors made a con­ser­va­tive play call on a long third down.

Dan Au­gust re­turns: South Carolina’s first score of the game came on a 2-yard pass to se­nior tight end Ja­cob Au­gust. It was the se­cond touch­down of Au­gust’s ca­reer. His first came in 2015 when Steve Spurrier was his head coach. Spurrier, who is now a con­sul­tant at Florida and was in at­ten­dance Satur­day, jok­ingly called Ja­cob Au­gust “Dan Au­gust” af­ter a 1970s tele­vi­sion char­ac­ter played by Burt Reynolds.

PHO­TOS BY GAVIN MCINTYRE gm­cin­tyre@thes­tate.com

South Carolina Game­cocks tight end Ja­cob Au­gust (40) dives for the ball as he's de­fended by Florida de­fen­sive back Jea­won Tay­lor (29) and de­fen­sive back Shawn Davis (31) dur­ing the game at Ben Hill Grif­fin Sta­dium Satur­day in Gainesville, Florida.

GAVIN MCINTYRE gm­cin­tyre@thes­tate.com

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp looks at the score­board dur­ing the game against Florida at Ben Hill Grif­fin Sta­dium Satur­day.

GAVIN MCINTYRE gm­cin­tyre@thes­tate.com

South Carolina wide re­ceiver Bryan Ed­wards (89) misses the ball as he's de­fended by Florida de­fen­sive back CJ Hen­der­son (5) Satur­day in Gainesville, Florida.

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