By applying pressure to quarterbacks Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks all game, South Carolina earned a 28-20 win over the Gators at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
In a win that clinched at least a share of the SEC East, the Gamecocks finished with four sacks and nine quarterback hurries.
Running back Mon Denson finished with 61 net rushing yards on 13 carries, and A.J. Turner led the Gamecocks in rushing with 136 yards on 22 carries. OreTre Smith led the Gamecocks with 60 receiving yards with Hayden Hurst right behind him with 59 on five receptions.
On the Gamecocks’ first possession, they marched down the field on a seven play 74-yard drive that was capped off by a Jake Bentley four-yard touchdown run. The touchdown was set up by a 33-yard run from Turner and two completions longer than 20 yards to Shi Smith and Hurst.
South Carolina’s next possession seemed like one out of a video game. Bentley was picked off, and Florida returned it to the one-yard line before Hurst forced a fumble, recovered by Turner, who brought it back to the 25-yard line. South Carolina picked up a first down before punting, but on the punt Florida muffed the catch and the Gamecocks recovered. Bentley threw a pick on the very next play that was returned 46 yards.
Despite some sloppy football that ended with five turnovers — three for South Carolina and two for Florida — the Gamecocks still held a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. The Gamecocks' second touchdown came from Denson on a 23-yard run, his first career touchdown.
Florida would get on the board early in the second quarter when Eddy Pineiro converted on a 29-yard field goal after South Carolina muffed a punt. Florida’s next drive stalled after Zaire was injured on a play, returned two plays later and re-injured himself. He would not return to the game. Florida converted on a 37-yard field goal to cut the Gamecocks' lead down to 14-6 with 7:47 to go in the first half.
The Gamecocks immediately responded with an eight play, 75-yard drive that was helped by a facemask penalty. Denson found the end zone for the second time in the game on a 12-yard run on fourth-and-one to put the Gamecocks up 21-6 with less than four minutes to go in the half.
Florida would not go away, however, as it marched down the field. The Gators gained 17 yards on a fourth-and-7 from the Gamecocks 35 that set up a 18 yard run by Lamical Perine with 1:18 to go before the break. The half ended with South Carolina up 21-13.
In their first two drives out of the break, the Gamecocks had two turnovers, one on fourth-and-one from Florida's 35 the on the next possession, Bentley was hit as he threw and the pass was intercepted. Florida’s offense was unable to turn these chances into points.
Late in the third quarter, when it looked like Florida was gaining momentum on defense, the Gamecocks took it all back on three run plays. On third-and-nine, Bentley scrambled for 17 yards, and Turner recorded a 25-yard run on the next play. Bentley would finish off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
With a chance to melt some clock and potentially ice the game early in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks went three-and-out on a drive that lasted less than two minutes.
The Gamecock defense held Florida at bay. It was stellar on third down, holding the Gators to 2-for-15 on the day. The Gamecocks seemed to ice the game with a 5:34 minute drive that started with 10:30 on the clock. Parker White missed the 47-yard field goal opening the door for Florida.
Florida quickly moved the ball down the field scoring on touchdown set up by a 63-yard pass down to to the one-yard line and punched it in on the next play. Florida got the stop it needed but Jamyest Williams intercepted Franks on third down with just over a minute to seal the win for the Gamecocks.