In a battle for a third place in the SEC East, the Gamecocks seemed well on their way to a second straight 8-4 regular season midway through the third quarter, going up 31-14 on the Florida Gators.
At that point, the Gamecocks had a comfortable lead and had silenced an otherwise rowdy crowd in Gainesville, Florida. The offense had scored 31 points, highlighted by explosive plays, which seemed to be building off of a stellar performance at Ole Miss from the week before.
However, the Florida Gators surged back to beat the Gamecocks for the second time in three years by scoring 21 unanswered points in the Swamp to win 35-31.
Florida won the game by taking advantage of a depleted Gamecock defense, and it ended up being the difference in the game. The Gators were extremely successful running the ball in the last 15 minutes, rushing for 367 yards.
“Can’t stop the run, it's gonna have a hard time winning,” said head football coach Will Muschamp after the game. “It’s the bottom line.”
The Gamecocks also were not as effective on the offensive side of the ball after creating a 17-point lead.
At the end of the third quarter, the Gamecocks had passed for 239 yards, with junior quarterback Jake Bentley having a solid day by completing 18 of his 28 passes and throwing for two touchdowns.
However, the Gamecocks had zero passing yards in the fourth quarter and were committed to playing more conservative on offense by running the ball more, which allowed Florida, the second best overall defense in the SEC, to take control of the game and take the lead for good with 4:09 left in the game.
Even though the passing game wasn’t as efficient in the fourth quarter, Muschamp believes that the players and coaches used the same offensive philosophy at the end of the game, but problems arose with execution down the stretch.
“We’ve called the same things we were calling to get to that point,” said Muschamp after the game. “We had a couple of drops there at the end to give you some opportunities, we had some run checks that were working well, but [Florida] leveraged and did a little better job on them. Didn’t change the mindset at all.”
Muschamp was also frustrated with the inability to make plays during South Carolina’s last drive of the game, where the Gamecocks were down by four points and had an opportunity to drive down the field for a game winning touchdown.
“We’ve been in this situation a lot. We had four minutes to go in the game. We had our opportunities, and we just gotta go finish some plays," said Muschamp. "It’s frustrating.”
With the 35-31 loss, the Gamecocks fall to 5-4 on the season and will finish the SEC portion of the schedule with a 4-4 conference record.
South Carolina hopes to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Florida when Chattanooga comes to Columbia on Nov. 17. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on SEC Network Alternate.