Nov. 11, 2017
South Carolina 28, Florida 20
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In a season of one dominant team and a bunch of disappointments in the SEC East, resilient South Carolina figured out another way to win, overcoming four turnovers to beat Florida 28-20 on Saturday and reach heights the Gamecocks have rarely achieved.
South Carolina (7-3, 5-3 Southeastern) can't win what would have been only been its second SEC East title. But the Gamecocks will finish with only its eighth winning SEC record in 26 seasons in the league.
Second year coach Will Muschamp has his Gamecocks embracing what he calls a ''So What? Now what?'' philosophy, and his quarterback Jake Bentley personified it, shaking off three interceptions to throw for 249 yards and run for two touchdowns .
''At the end of the day, we won,'' the sophomore said. ''It's better to learn from something with a W.''
A Florida team in disarray with a fired coach and no wins since September couldn't take advantage of the help. The Gators (3-6, 3-5) will finish with a losing SEC record for only the third time since 1992.
Interim coach Randy Shannon said he was proud his team kept fighting after a 35-point loss against Georgia led to the firing of Jim McElwain two weeks ago, and Shannon's debut was a 29-point loss to Missouri. But he understands it still isn't enough as Florida will miss a bowl game for only the third time in 31 seasons.
''Is this up to the expectations of this program? No. We wanted to win. There are no moral victories,'' Shannon said.
In a common theme this season, the Gamecocks defense also came through. The Gators converted as many fourth downs (2 for 2) as third downs (2 for 15). And the defense ended Florida's last chance when defensive back Jamyest Williams picked off a tipped pass near midfield with just over a minute to go.
''Two years ago, we're a 3-9 football team. The investment you've made to get to this point, I'm damn proud of you,'' Muschamp told his team in the locker room after the win.
QUOTING COACH MUSCHAMP
“Well we made it probably a little bit more interesting than it needed to be. Coach (Ray) Tanner has been complaining about concessions, so I figured we’d keep some people around until the end of the game. Really proud of our football team. The last two weeks, the Vanderbilt game and Georgia game, were two very physical games. We had a bunch of guys that took very sparingly reps throughout the week. D.J. Smith wasn’t able to go in pregame. Dante Sawyer was limping on one leg. We’re like everybody else in the country right now. We’re really beat up, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I though we moved the ball extremely well. We stayed balance – did exactly what we wanted to do. We ran the ball extremely well. Jake had a couple throws – we had a miscommunication coming off the goal line on the ball there. We’ve got to take a sack or throw the ball away on the one wheel route on our sideline. You can’t throw a pick in that situation. Then the ball in the end zone I don’t think he saw the safety. You can ask him, but the guy made a heck of a play. Chauncey (Gardener Jr.) came out of the top and intercepted the ball. We were much better on third down defensively. I thought we stopped the run other than two runs. The power play on the nub side, on the backside – I thought we played the runs well for the most part. Our guys continue to fight and play hard in the game. We made the plays when we needed to make the plays – huge interception there at the end. Give Florida credit – those kids have been through an awful lot. It’s a very difficult thing to go through what those young men are facing and I hate it for those guys. They’ve got a bunch of good kids in that locker room, and it’s a tough situation they’re going through right now. I told our team all week that this team is going to come out and fight and play hard. I know those guys. They represented Florida extremely well today.”
With South Carolina holding a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Jake Bentley’s pass was intercepted by CJ Henderson at the Gamecock 25-yard line. Henderson returned it to the South Carolina 1-yard line, but the ball was poked away by Hayden Hurst and picked up by A.J. Turner to the Gamecock 24. Although they didn’t score, the Gamecocks kept the lead and added to it on a Mon Denson 24-yard rush towards the end of the first quarter.
242 – South Carolina produced a season-high 469 yards on 76 offensive plays in the win over Florida. A.J. Turner ran for a career-high 136 yards while Mon Denson added 61 yards and two touchdowns. Jake Bentley was 19-for-29 for 249 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
The Gamecocks continue their three-game regular-season-ending homestand by hosting the Wofford Terriers out the FCS Southern Conference, on Saturday, November 18. South Carolina leads the all-time series by a 19-4 count, including a 17-2 advantage when the games have been played in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won each of the last 16 meetings between these two Palmetto State schools, with Wofford’s last win coming in the 1917 season. Carolina was a 24-7 winner in 2012, the last time they met.
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