Gamecocks start fast, fall short in The Swamp

Will Muschamp’s struggles at The Swamp continued on Saturday.

South Carolina lost a 17-point second half lead and fell to No. 19 Florida 35-31 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where Muschamp previously served as the Gators head coach.

The Gamecocks lead 31-14 after Rico Dowdle scored on a 4-yard run with 4:41 left in the third quarter, and South Carolina still led by 18 points with 16 minutes left in the game. However, the Gators scored 21 unanswered from that point. Florida rushed for 368 yards and scored all five of its touchdowns on the ground against a Gamecocks defense ranked 12th in the SEC against the run.

It was the most yards rushing allowed by the Gamecocks since LSU gained 396 on the ground in 2015, Steve Spurrier’s final game as the South Carolina head coach.

For the first three quarters, the game belonged to the Gamecocks who were looking to snap an eight-game losing streak against ranked teams. Muschamp has now lost eight of his last 10 games as a head coach in The Swamp. His last SEC victory in Gainesville came on Sept. 13, 2014, in a 36-30 overtime win over Kentucky.

THREE POINTS

Star of the game: South Carolina senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel finished with 201 all-purpose yards, including the longest reception of his career, an 89-yard gain that set up the Gamecocks’ fourth touchdown of the game. Samuel also recovered a Florida punt while playing the gunner position on the punt team.

Play of the game: After South Carolina had stopped Florida on three plays from the 2-yard line, Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal to give Florida its first lead of the game at 35-31 with 4:09 left.

Stat of the game: The Gamecocks and Gators were a combined 14-of-21 on third down in the first half.

OBSERVATIONS

Allen-Williams, Sterling out: Defensive ends Bryson Allen-Williams and Aaron Sterling did not make the trip to Florida due to injuries. Allen-Williams suffered an ankle injury against Ole Miss, and Sterling suffered a knee injury. Head coach Will Muschamp held out hope all week that both would be able to play against the Gators. Instead, the Gamecocks moved defensive tackle Keir Thomas to end to start the game and gave Kobe Smith the second start of his career at defensive tackle. Thomas was injured during the game.

The Surly Swamp: Florida’s fans were antsy as the game started. The Gators already had lost to Kentucky and Missouri at home in head coach Dan Mullen’s first year with the school. Florida fans booed starting Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks after a first quarter incompletion, and Franks made a shushing motion to his home fans after scoring on a 10-yard run in the second quarter to tie the score at 14-14. The boos came back out in force in the third quarter when the Gators made a conservative play call on a long third down.

Dan August returns: South Carolina’s first score of the game came on a 2-yard pass to senior tight end Jacob August. It was the second touchdown of August’s career. His first came in 2015 when Steve Spurrier was his head coach. Spurrier, who is now a consultant at Florida and was in attendance Saturday, jokingly called Jacob August “Dan August” after a 1970s television character played by Burt Reynolds.

NEXT

Who: South Carolina vs. Chattanooga

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC

TV: SEC Network alternate