The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina unable to come up with big plays in loss to Florida

The South Carolina Gamecocks lost to the Florida Gators 41-39 in their fourth Southeastern Conference matchup of the season at Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 14, 2023. This loss puts the Gamecocks at 2-4 for the season.

Big plays were a major factor in determining a winner Saturday between Florida and South Carolina, and the Gators came up with more when it needed them most, leading to a 41-39 Gamecock loss Saturday afternoon. 

The two teams combined for 80 points, 959 total yards and 40 plays going 10 or more yards over the course of the game. South Carolina's offense was a big part of that, but the team’s inability to make plays on both sides of the ball in key moments of the game ultimately led to its defeat. 


“At the end of the day, we didn’t make enough plays. We got guys in positions to make plays and get off the field and end the game and didn’t get it done. (We had) plenty of opportunities on offense to finish the game (and) didn’t get it done,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “Just overall, a disappointing night.” 

On offense, the Gamecocks’ usual suspects put up impressive performances.

Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 23 of 30 passes for 313 yards and contributed a season-high four touchdowns. Many of his deep throws, most notably a 46-yard pass to fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette and a 45-yard effort to freshman wide receiver Nyck Harbor, connected for big gains early. 

Legette finished with five catches for 110 yards, marking his fourth 100-yard outing of the year through six games. Redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson energized South Carolina’s offense with 98 yards on the ground and 23 yards receiving, including a 20-yard catch-and-run that crescendoed with a hurdle over an oncoming Florida defender. 

“(Running backs coach Montario Hardesty) has been emphasizing doing a better job of making plays when (Rattler) throws us the ball out of the backfield — better help the team and not being one-dimensional in the run game, so I was ecstatic for him,” junior running back Juju McDowell said. “I was just calling him ‘Super Mario’ before the play and told him to get in the box and he did that, so I’m proud of him for that.” 

South Carolina also got offensive contributions from graduate student tight end Trey Knox, who led the team with eight catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, and McDowell, who found the end zone twice himself. 

With these individual performances and a 37-27 lead with 9:25 remaining in the game, the Gamecocks’ offense had opportunities to put the game away but totaled just 31 yards over its final two drives, which Rattler said left a lot to be desired. 

“As a group, we might just have to do more. There were some drives that we could have extended and some things we could’ve done better to help (the defense) out,” Rattler said. “We try to play complementary football.” 

From a play-making standpoint, things did not fare much better for South Carolina’s defense, which came into this game allowing 301.4 passing yards per game, the most of any defensive unit in the SEC. 

The Gamecocks’ defense allowed 494 yards — including 423 through the air — and 24 plays of 10 yards or more. Even though it gave up yardage in large chunks throughout the game, South Carolina found ways to keep Florida out of the end zone, forcing the Gators to attempt five field goals, the last of which was blocked by redshirt senior edge rusher Tyreek Johnson. 

But after that blocked field goal, the Gamecocks struggled to contain Florida’s offense, which scored 14 points and totaled 150 yards on its final two full drives. The Gators’ late comeback culminated in a 21-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback Graham Mertz to senior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, which gave Florida the lead with 47 seconds remaining in the game. 

“We were confident coming into this game — we should’ve been. And my message was, ‘We didn’t make enough plays,' and they made the plays when it counted,” Beamer said. “Give them credit. Being down 10 points in the fourth quarter on the road, they did a good job.” 

With the loss, South Carolina falls to 1-3 in the SEC and 2-4 overall for the first time in Beamer’s tenure as head coach. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, Beamer said he was optimistic that the team has what it takes to move forward. 

“I know how this group will respond. They always have. They’ll come right back to work tomorrow … and they’ll show up at 3 p.m. ready to get back to work,” Beamer said. “That’s life. You put a lot into stuff, and it’s all about how you respond.” 

The Gamecocks will look to return to winning ways next weekend with a road trip to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the Missouri Tigers. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be available to watch on the SEC Network.