The Gators came back from a two-game skid to defeat Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks at home on Saturday. It didn’t appear to be a winning effort from the start, but a great run game and an improved mentality overcame some early struggles.
These are a few of our most notable observations from the 35-31 win.
1. Scarlett and Perine are a dangerous duo
Dan Mullen didn’t seem to trust Feleipe Franks to throw too much on Saturday, and with the way the Gators ran the ball, he didn’t need to.
Florida put up 367 rushing yards with Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine combining for 266 of those.
Scarlett led the team with a career-high 159 yards on 18 carries for an average of 8.8 yards per carry, but did not manage to put it in the end zone. He could have with the Gators up by four late in the game, but made the mature decision to slide and let the team run out the clock to win it.
While he didn’t add to his touchdown total, he looked like a man among boys running the ball all over the Gamecocks’ defense. He seemed to break a tackle or drag someone along for the ride with him every time carried it.
The running back who did score for the Gators did it not once, but twice. Perine ran it in on third and goal for Florida’s first score early in the second quarter, then broke off the big one up the middle that made it a three-point game in the fourth quarter. He picked up 107 yards on 16 carries.
Scarlett’s power and Perine’s unbelievable vision make for a nasty one-two punch when the Gators put the ball in their hands and let them carry the offense.
2. Defense is still a big problem
Todd Grantham’s defense has shined at times this season, but it is no longer cutting it.
The new staff hasn’t had a chance to bring in all the players to fit the defense yet, but that is no excuse for a scheme that offenses can find holes in play after play, game after game and a continued lack of adjustments.
At some point, the blame has to be placed on coaching.
The Gators allowed South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley to complete 13 of his first 14 passes as the Gamecocks marched down the field for touchdowns on their first two possessions.
South Carolina had 167 yards of offense in the first quarter alone.
Then, with Florida down 24-14 in the third quarter, Bentley hit Deebo Samuel on a slant, and the only thing that kept him from making an 89 yard catch and run into a touchdown was the incredible closing speed of C.J. Henderson. It wouldn’t matter, because the Gamecocks ran it in two plays later to go up 31-14.
While the Gators were beyond ugly for most of the day, the one thing that can be said about this defense is it steps up in big moments with the game on the line.
As the offense came back from a 17-point deficit, Florida gave up just 23 yards in the fourth quarter and Henderson picked off Bentley the drive after the Gators took the lead. That gave the offense the ball back to close it out in the final four minutes.
The inconsistent defense didn’t come back to bite Florida on Saturday, but until that is fixed, it will continue to hold the Gators back from being a championship level team.
3. Gators played with emotion
It didn’t start out that way, but after Florida picked itself up from South Carolina’s early dominance, there was some real grit and emotion shown on the field that hasn’t been there for the last few weeks.
It started with Scarlett and Perine and continued with the comeback of sorts by Feleipe Franks. Franks had taken boos from the crowd and some heavy criticism on social media and in the media since the Georgia game, and he responded to it on Saturday.
The crowd booed him and the offense early in the game, but started to come around and warm back up to him after a couple of tough runs, and especially after his first touchdown. That’s when he decided to put his finger to his lips and shush the fans in his celebration.
He did it again when he ran it in to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Some say it was disrespectful to the fans who support him and the team. Others say the fans should be able to take back what they dish out.
I say it was not the right move for a player who has yet to win over the fan base in his three years in Gainesville. Florida faithful want to stand behind the team, but frustrations from the effort given recently are understandable.
At the same time, Franks had a good game. If playing off his emotions and thinking it’s him against the world helps him have success, then so be it.
He and the Gators laid it all out there against the Gamecocks, and that’s what good teams do.