GAINESVILLE, Fla. — South Carolina came into Florida cruising on the momentum of a three-game win streak.
But things did not go well for the Gamecocks in Gainesville, as they left with a 20-7 loss. We hand out grades from the performance:
South Carolina needs to get in the habit of setting up a cold tub for Jake Bentley to flop into after games these days. The freshman quarterback is taking a beating behind an offensive line that just is not getting the job done. He was sacked 5 times, bringing the three-game total to 14.
That was where the issues started for South Carolina, as the Gamecocks could not win up front. Bentley didn’t have time to throw. The Gamecocks were blanketed by the talented Florida secondary.
There was no run game to speak of, as 30 carries yielded just 43 yards. There were highlights, of course. Bentley’s 21-yard pass to Bryan Edwards was impressive. Hayden Hurst became more involved in the offense. But Edwards and Hurst both had key drops, as well.
A flat start led to a deficit that South Carolina couldn’t overcome and that was a stark contrast from the past three weeks.
South Carolina still has yet to allow 30 points this season, holding Florida to 20. That’s thanks to what has become a trend and a defining trait of this defense: It makes big plays to force turnovers at big times.
The Gamecocks forced three. Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams was involved in all of them, recovering a fumble, forcing a fumble and tipping a pass that T.J. Holloman picked off. He had a stellar game in that regard. But early on South Carolina couldn’t stop anything. The Gamecocks allowed more than 8.5 yards per play in the first half but came back to play better in the second half and allowed just six points in the final 30 minutes.
Special teams: C-
At one point Saturday, South Carolina had punted 7 times and Bentley had completed 7 passes. The returns of those 7 punts went for more yards than the Bentley completions did.
Antonio Callaway crushed the South Carolina punt coverage units, setting up great field position multiple times. He also took one for a touchdown, but it was called back for a holding penalty. Callaway finished with 100 yards on punt returns, giving USC issues and bringing to light again why coach Will Muschamp does not like the lack of speed on his roster.
But another week with no muffed punts was a positive, as South Carolina takes steps forward in that area.
It was a stunning move when Muschamp chose to receive when South Carolina won the coin toss, but it was equally awesome. The aggressiveness was outstanding. The Gamecocks looked to do something to open the game and punch Florida in the mouth. It did with the first run … but not with the next two and punted.
The issues in this game were not coaching related; it was all execution. South Carolina dropped passes, didn’t tackle well and couldn’t run the ball. On offense, the decision to again implement screen passes to settle Bentley was smart. Not seeing any Brandon McIlwain packages also was good, as South Carolina appears to have moved away from that for now.
South Carolina didn’t allow much defensively, but it did too little offensively. The early deficit was too much to overcome, and should have been a lot worse.
But a tough matchup for South Carolina proved to be just that, especially when it came to moving the ball. The Gamecocks now have to bounce back and secure a bowl game next week.