GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The momentum of Oct. 7 seems so long ago.
South Carolina woke up that Sunday morning fresh off a 35-7 beating of Georgia and on the verge of being moved to No. 3 in the nation. The world was full of promise. Then last week, the Gamecocks took a step back in a close loss to LSU. On Saturday, they fell flat on their backs.
Florida, which inherited the No. 3 ranking South Carolina lost last week, embarrassed the No. 9 Gamecocks 44-11. A crowd of 90,833 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium watched Steve Spurrier take the kind of whipping he became accustomed to dishing out in The Swamp.
Two weeks ago was two weeks ago, Spurrier said. We had a bad one today. LSU was bad. This one was worse.
It was South Carolinas worst loss since a 56-17 defeat against Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game. The loss does not eliminate South Carolina from the SEC East race, but it now must rely on Georgia and Missouri to beat Florida and the Bulldogs to lose to either Kentucky (in a game played late Saturday), Auburn or Ole Miss. Missouri, Auburn and Ole Miss are a combined 1-11 in the SEC.
We dont deserve to be in the top 15, Spurrier said. I dont know what we deserve to be. Were just not an overall strong team.
Things went south quickly for South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC). Starting quarterback Connor Shaw, surprised by a corner blitz, was stripped on the first play of the game, setting up a 2-yard scoring drive that gave Florida a 7-0 lead. The Gators had three touchdowns before the had three first downs, and they turned 29 first half yards into a 21-6 halftime lead after the Gamecocks special teams chipped in two more fumbles, one by Ace Sanders and one by Damiere Byrd, both deep in Gamecock territory.
Its one thing to lose, Spurrier said. We knew it would be a tough game down here. The one thing we hoped was our guys would give it their best shot, not just lay the ball on the ground and basically just say, Here Florida, we dont want to win. You guys take this fumble and this one and this one. And away they went. It was sad; it was sad today.
The second half was sad but for different reasons. Florida took the ball first and went 59 yards for a touchdown. Then Spurrier replaced Shaw with backup Dylan Thompson, and the offense had minus-1 yard in the third quarter. Junior running back Marcus Lattimore was limited, by a combination of a back injury and Floridas swarming defense, to 13 yards on three carries for the game.
It hurts when you dont establish the running game early, especially for us, Shaw said. We have relied on that so much in the past. I think its important we start doing that in the future.
The Gamecocks have rushed for 70 yards combined in the last two games.
Its tough because thats what we lean on, Lattimore said. We have to run the ball to win the game. Usually when we dont, we lose. We just have to keep pushing.
Spurrier wanted to establish his passing game early and then hand the game over to Lattimore, he said.
As it turned out, it was not a good plan and the score got out of hand because of the fumble things, he said.
The Gamecocks play Tennessee at noon on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. With no realistic hope of a championship to play for, South Carolina will have to find a new motivation in the final five regular season games.
Its called character, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. We are not going to throw the season away because we lost two games in a row.
Florida: Reed 3 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), 14:01.
USC: FG Yates 35, 7:03.
Florida: Dunbar 13 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), 3:00.
Florida: Reed 1 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), 2:02.
USC: FG Yates 51, :00.
Florida: Hines 6 run (kick blocked), 9:00.
USC: 2-point defensive conversion by Hampton, 9:00.
Florida: FG Sturgis 42, 4:51.
Florida: Hammond 6 pass from Driskel (Sturgis kick), :14.
USC: FG Yates 30, 7:17.
Florida: Jones 1 run (Sturgis kick), 5:54.
|Time of Possession||24:32||35:28|
South Carolina, M. Davis 6-20, Miles 5-15, Lattimore 3-13, Ellington 1-3, C. Shaw 9-(minus 2), Thompson 2-(minus 13).
Florida, Gillislee 19-37, M. Brown 5-18, Patton 2-15, Jones 3-11, T.Burton 5-10, Hines 2-9, Driskel 9-(minus 5), Team 3-(minus 6).
South Carolina, C. Shaw 9-20-0-72, Thompson 8-20-1-83.
Florida, Driskel 11-16-0-93, T.Burton 1-1-0-1.
South Carolina, D.L. Moore 3-23, Sanders 2-32, Cunningham 2-13, Lattimore 2-9, Miles 2-5, Anderson 1-20, D. Smith 1-16, Brent 1-14, Adams 1-12, M.Davis 1-6, Jones 1-5.
Florida, Reed 4-44, Dunbar 2-29, Hammond 2-16, Hines 2-7, Joyer 1-1, Gillislee 1-(minus 3).