As expected, it was a typical ugly game against a Won’t Misschump-coached team, but the Gators pulled away in the 4th quarter for a 38-27 win at soggy Williams-Brice Stadium. I knew it would be hard for the staff to get the team emotionally ready after 2 tough games against Auburn and LSU, and it took a full half for the players to get into the game.
The script was pretty much the same for the Florida offense – difficulty in establishing a consistent running game then hitting a long run for a TD, while Kyle Trask had another efficient passing game with a career-high 4 TDs after struggling throwing a wet ball in the first half. The return of Damien Pierce was a boost to the running game, with his 75 yard TD tying the game at 17 in the 3rd quarter after a bad Trask interception gave Carolina a short field which they capitalized on. After Pierce’s run, the entire team settled down and played much better. Coach Mullen had another solid game plan for the offense to execute and coached an aggressive game despite the weather conditions. Once again the Gators dominated the 4th quarter of a game, hitting the Lamecocks with 21 consecutive points to ice the win.
The Gator defense surprisingly struggled against the run again, allowing over 200 yards and keeping Carolina in the game until the 4th quarter. Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski was hobbled by a knee injury sustained against Georgia, and I would have thought the front seven would have been more conscious of the running game. Of course the absence of DEs Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga was felt, but that’s no excuse for being gashed repeatedly most of the game. The DT rotation is a bit banged up as well, but their play against the run was disappointing. DT Kyrie Cleveland and LB David Reese cannot do everything alone to stop the run, and someone else at LB has to step up their play right now if Florida is to have any chance at beating Georgia in Jacksonville. The secondary played only an average game. WR Brian Edwards was Carolina’s only real threat, and he was contained most of the day. However, there were some lapses – CJH dropped what should have been an interception in the end zone which allowed a Carolina scoring drive to continue, while the safety support in the running game again was lacking.
Florida’s special teams were very good again. Evan McPherson made a difficult 48 yard FG to get the Gators on the board, Tommy Townsend did a nice job of pinning down the Lamecocks with some excellent punts, and the kickoff and punt coverage units were sharp.
Finally, the officiating during the game was atrocious against both teams. Florida’s TD catch by Kyle Pitts was set up by an illegal pick/block, Pierce’s TD run could have been negated by a false start penalty on RT Jean Delance, while Carolina got away with exorbitant holding by both their O-Line and secondary all afternoon. I will say that it was nice to see the Gators actually be the beneficiary of some bad calls for once.
All’s well that ends well – the Gators won another road SEC game, and now go into the bye week with the opportunity to rest, get a handful of injured guys healed, and begin 2 weeks of game-planning for what is essentially an SEC East title game against Georgia. Despite a 7-1 record, the coaching staff has a lot to work on to get cleaned up before a tough upcoming game. Getting at least one of Greenard or Zuniga back would be a boost to the entire defense, but there some fundamental flaws against the running game that have to be improved upon. Offensively, the running game has to provide some balance to give Trask any chance of being effective.
I’ll be back next week with a preview of the Georgia game – Go Gators!