5 final thoughts from Columbia

The Gators marched into Williams-Brice Stadium a batter and bruised bunch. Will Muschamp’s team has been through more than their fair share of adversity this season, beginning with Andre Debose and Chaz Green before the season even kicked off and that proved to be the tip of the iceberg on the injury front.

Still, the team has pressed on. The Gators showed a ton of fight against South Carolina, which watched Auburn take down Georgia — opening up the door for the Gamecocks to make a second trip to Atlanta in four seasons — on the Jumbotron during the game.

It was my first trip to the University of South Carolina and the last road trip for us this season. Columbia was probably the best road trip to date. There is a lot of history at the University of South Carolina and it was nice to get to the stadium early and watch people tailgating on Cockaboose’s and around the fairgrounds.

Let’s get into the five things that stood out to me in Florida’s tough loss this past Saturday to South Carolina.


Gamecocks flipped the script in the second half

The theme in 2012 was a slow start followed by halftime adjustments. The Gators coaching staff was given credit for being able to access what other teams were doing successfully and make the necessary adjustments to shut it down.

The opposite of that happened on Saturday in Columbia. Florida was able to run for 169 yards in the first half but was held to just 31 rushing yards in the second half. South Carolina flipped the script on a Florida coaching staff that has become known for great in-game adjustments.


Spin on kicking carousel, spin on

Will Muschamp has been adamant that the kicking battle is open and is a week-to-week competition. Austin Hardin has won that kicking competition the past two weeks but is 0-3 the past two contests.

Florida continues to feel the departure of Caleb Sturgis 10 games into the season. Without travel roster limitations expect Brad Phillips (didn’t travel to South Carolina), Frankie Velez and Hardin to all be available options this week against Georgia Southern.


Muschamp is right; injuries are a real thing

I’ve done anything but make excuses for the 2013 Florida Gators but at some point you need to take a step back and really look at what is going on. How did the University of Florida fall to 4-6? Heading into the season I thought that this Gator team might be better than they were a year ago but thought that they would have a worse record due to a tougher schedule.

That may have been the case but we’ll never know because the team that Florida planned on having this season hasn’t played. Florida started a different offensive line for the tenth straight time against South Carolina. Think about that. That the offensive line has struggled this season is well documented, but how is a unit that needs to have familiarity and chemistry to perform supposed to achieve the high standards placed on it when it’s gone 10 games straight without the same starting five?

Injuries sound like an excuse. “Well Georgia has had injuries too,” detractors say. Sure they have, but Georgia isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire this season and that is with a senior quarterback and more experienced, healthy offensive line.

The injuries at Florida are real and it has made it almost impossible for Florida to play the style of football that made them a very successful team last year.


The team fought hard

Tyler Murphy said it well on Monday.

Being 4- 5 before that game we could’ve easily went out and just said ‘Hey we’re playing a top ten team they’re going to destroy us or kill us. We might as well give up or not even show up’ but we felt like we could go into South Carolina win the game. We felt we could win every game. It’s not going to be easy but you have to fight. We have a lot of guys on this team that believes if you give it your all you can be successful so it was just unfortunate we lost again but guys are willing to fight and you can see it and feel it.”

He’s right. South Carolina watched on the Jumbotron as Auburn upset Georgia, opening the door just slightly wider for the Gamecocks to win the East. The Gamecocks were a top-10 team with a lot to play for. The Gators were playing with a third string quarterback and just hoping to make it to a bowl game this December in Shreveport, Louisiana.

It’s easy for fans to say that the team needs to play hard every week and for the most part the team does. However, you have to fight human nature to go out there and play your tail off when the odds are all stacked against you.

It’s not “lowering the bar at Florida” to be proud of your team when they give every ounce of effort they have on the football field.

This wasn’t a moral victory for Florida. A loss is a loss.

But being a fan is like being married. You stick with them in sickness and in health.


This was a true SEC atmosphere

My trip to LSU was the best game atmosphere I had been to this season even if there were some empty seats.

Williams-Brice Stadium blew that game day experience out of the water. For once, the announced attendance didn’t make the press box chuckle. Rather, it seemed like the announced attendance of 83,853 (a season high for South Carolina) was a low estimate.

Williams-Brice was bursting at the seems and the fans were into the game. Florida was able to keep the fans quiet for most of the first half (the biggest cheer was when the Jumbotron showed the Auburn-Georgia ending) but the Gamecock faithful stayed through the whole contest and they were loud late. It probably helps that South Carolina has won 16-straight games at home (longest home winning streak in the country).

This is how SEC football is supposed to be played.

Show up early and stay late, the bars will be open when the game is over.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC