GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Here are the grades from Florida’s 20-7 win over South Carolina on Saturday.
Most expected Florida’s offense to get worse — not better — with Austin Appleby at quarterback. After Saturday, it’s evident the Gators should have given the graduate transfer another opportunity much sooner. He completed 17 of his 21 pass attempts. Two of those incompletions were drops and another was a throw away, so Appleby had one bad pass (a pick just before half) the entire game. His 81 percent completion rate ranks fifth all-time in a single game in the Florida books.
The Gators left a lot of points on the field with three turnovers in South Carolina territory, including a lost fumble on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Appleby was able to rebound on the ensuing drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass. He did a good job of spreading the ball around, completing passes to six different receivers. Florida finished the game with seven plays of 20 yards or more.
The Gators had three defensive starters out and lost two more to injury (defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and safety Marcus Maye) on Saturday. But Florida’s young defensive ends and linebackers played well in place of the injured starters, and backup safety Marcell Harris had a huge game with 7 tackles and an interception. South Carolina’s drive chart for its first 10 possessions consisted of seven punts, two turnovers and the end of the first half.
The Gamecocks gained 151 of their 256 yards on the last two possessions, including an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. They marched right back down the field on the ensuing series and reached the red zone, making the UF home crowd a little tense. But facing a third-and-2 from their own 11-yard line, the Gators forced back-to-back stops for a turnover on downs.
Special teams: A
Eddy Pineiro was money for Florida once again, making field goals from 54 and 36 yards in the third quarter. Those kicks put the game out of reach for the Gamecocks. Johnny Townsend booted a 59-yard punt and cornerback Chauncey Gardner made a great tackle on the play. Wide receiver Antonio Callaway finally got out of his funk and returned four punts for 100 yards, including a 39-yarder. I called that Callaway would return one for a touchdown, but it was negated because of penalty.
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) November 12, 2016
After giving up 466 yards against Arkansas, UF defensive coordinator Geoff Collins made a few schematic adjustments and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp praised Florida’s game plan on defense after the game. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier made some great plays calls suited for Appleby’s strengths. The staff also scrapped the running back by committee and gave Jordan Scarlett 20 carries against the Gamecocks. He rewarded them with a career-high 134 rushing yards.
There was the potential for this team to take a nosedive Saturday with all the injuries and personnel changes on both sides of the ball. Instead, the players stepped up and sent Florida’s seniors out the right away. It wasn’t a wide margin of victory, but the Gators haven’t played this well in all three phases of the game since their win over Kentucky.