In what could only be described as “Mr. Mullen’s Wild Ride”, Florida came back from two separate double-digit deficits to pull out a clutch win late against South Carolina. This could have been a second consecutive disastrous home loss that would really have derailed the season, but instead the Gators get a lot of credit for digging deep and fighting back.
The defense was somnambulant for the first two Carolina possessions, allowing the Lamecocks to move easily down the field each time for touchdowns and a quick 14-0 first quarter lead. Every position can take the blame, as the defense made Carolina QB Jake Bentley and their offense look like the Tom Brady-led Patriots. It seems in general that home teams with noon kickoffs usually start slowly, but the Gators looked lifeless the entire quarter. Finally, the offense awoke and put together two TD drives of their own in the second quarter to tie the game. The right side of the O-Line gets most of the credit for opening large holes for Scarlett and Perine to run though, and this would prove to be the winning formula in the second half as well. Franks hardly threw a pass more than a few yards downfield, instead making the safe throws. He ran the ball better in this game than ever before, especially in short-yardage situations. After being booed last week and early in this game, he unfortunately embarrassed himself by giving the home fans the shush gesture and screaming STFU after scoring his first rushing TD – just another example of his lack of maturity and leadership. Then the defense relapsed, allowing Carolina a TD drive just before halftime to take a 21-14 lead. There was no pass rush, and the LBs still looked lost in coverage and suffered from miscommunication in the 10th game of the season.
The second half started out as a repeat of the first, as the Gator offense came out slowly (again) and the defense collapsed (again) while the Lamecocks stretched their lead. Every unit played a part – poor tackling and miscommunication by the defense, sloppy play from Franks and the O-Line, and special teams allowing a long kickoff return to set up Carolina with a short field for a score. The offense drove to a 42-yard FG attempt, which McPherson missed. Carolina responded with their own drive for a FG and a 24-14 lead, then later in the 3rd quarter extended to lead to 31-14 after the Gators allowed an 89-yard catch and run by Deebo Samuel to their 5-yard line. The outlook at that point was bleak, as there was no energy from the players or fans. Florida then had it’s most fortunate break of the season, a poorly thrown pass into coverage by Franks that was tipped and somehow came down into the hands of Hammond, who was then was stripped of the ball before hitting the ground. The officials claimed his momentum had been stopped before the fumble, and Misschump shockingly didn’t challenge the call. After that, the O-Line, Perine, and Scarlett dominated the rest of the game, scoring on 3 consecutive punishing drives to take the lead at 35-31. Both RBs ran hard and broke tackles for extra yardage while punishing the Lamecock LBs and secondary. The Gator defense finally responded, making just enough plays and finally getting some pressure on Bentley in the 4th quarter. CJH ended the last decent threat by Carolina with a terrific interception, trailing the WR and baiting Bentley into the throw.
It was a true gut-check for the team, and to their credit they played hard and came back. This game can be the result, even more than the LSU win, that Mullen can point to in the offseason to the returning players as proof of what he has been preaching since he took the job. Another blowout loss at home could have killed any recruiting momentum and left the team emotionally fragile heading into the game in two weeks against Florida $tate.
It’s on to Senior Day at the Swamp, as Florida welcomes the Idaho Vandals for a glorified scrimmage before the rivalry game in Taliban City against F$U. Don’t expect much variety in scheme from either the offense or defense – just the basic plays and looks to get by. Expect a lot of running plays on offense, with minimal need to expose Franks to any injury possibility. Idaho has struggled in the weak Big Sky conference, so they are completely outmanned against the Gators. A lot of younger and/or inexperienced players should get some snaps, as the staff should be able to start pulling starters and clearing the bench in the second half. There has been a lot of debate as to whether Emory Jones should play to get some more live game experience, but it seems Mullen is holding him back for the last 2 games against the Criminoles and the bowl game, in order to preserve his redshirt.
As always, the mantra for this kind of game is……NO INJURIES.
Prediction: Florida 59 Idaho 13