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November 17, 2013
Upon Further Review: Gators keep it close
Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 19-14 loss to SEC East opponent South Carolina.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor accounted for one-third of his team's total yards on Saturday, taking 21 carries for a career-high 96 yards and scoring two touchdowns on the evening. Taylor was dominant in the first half when Florida instituted some direct snap runs to confuse South Carolina but got shut down in the second half when the Gators stuck with that game plan and did not open things up a bit more. He picked up 86 yards in the first half and exploded with two big runs but only gained 10 total yards in the second half.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Florida failed to register a turnover for the second-straight week after doing so in 19 consecutive contests, but freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis was arguably the most impressive defender on the field considering he earned his first start and saw the most field time he has in a single game thus far. Davis finished with five tackles (one for lost yardage) but was seemingly always around the ball. He made it quite clear why coaches have been praising him throughout the season.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE GAME
Freshman punter Johnny Townsend played better than his average of 36.2 yards per punt indicates. Though Townsend did not get great distance on two of his four punts (the ones where UF wanted to pick up as much ground as possible), he landed one at the 10 and placed another inside the five. Had junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy been more aware of his position on the field and stopped the punt Townsend placed inside the five, it would not have rolled into the end zone for a touchback. The Gators needed to win the field position battle and Townsend did whatever he could to try and help that happen.
STAT LINE OF THE GAME
377, which refers to the total offensive yardage gained by South Carolina, exactly 70 more than Florida posted on the evening. The Gators did a good job stopping the Gamecocks from reaching the end zone overall, but Florida's defense bent just a little too much. USC attempted six field goals on Saturday and connected on five. If the UF defense had done just a bit better, especially on fourth down (allowing the hosts to convert 2-of-3 attempts), Florida might actually have won the game.
ON THE RISE
Redshirt junior LB Neiron Ball played his best game of the season on Saturday, registering six tackles while looking particularly explosive and quick. He did get beat for an acrobatic catch near the goal line, but he did the best he could to prevent the reception (even committing pass interference while doing so). Ball - and fellow redshirt junior LB Ronald Powell, for that matter - may help solve some of the Gators' defensive issues over the final two games of the season.
ON THE BUBBLE
In a game where Florida barely threw the ball and was potentially just a couple plays away from winning, no one truly deserves to go on the bubble this week. Instead, the team as a whole can be called out for once again committing eight penalties in a game and losing 65 yards because of (mostly) undisciplined miscues. The Gators consistently took themselves out of short second- and third-down plays due to penalties, making an already difficult task (beating the Gamecocks) even tougher.
Even though everyone knew redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg would be under center, the run-pass disparity of 41-to-14 was certainly unexpected entering the contest. Perhaps even more surprising was the Gators having put together an offensive game plan that worked quite well in the first half and resulted in the team's first lead in a game since its showdown against LSU. Florida had an opportunity to switch things up on the bye week heading into Georgia but did not, which was a disappointment. To see UF employ a new strategy - and it work, at least for a half - was undoubtedly a bright spot.
The Gators' kicking game is atrocious. Even though it wound up not being a game-deciding kick - at least in terms of the scoreboard - Florida redshirt freshman Austin Hardin missed a chip shot 32-yard field goal in UF's only attempt of the game. It's one thing to have poor field goal kicking and not be able to hit anything from beyond 40 yards. It's another to have absolutely no hope that any field goal attempt will even go through the uprights. Field goal kicking did not solely cost Florida the game, but it has in previous weeks and remains an albatross on the Gators this season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Faced with 3rd-and-14 at South Carolina's 20, Taylor took a direct snap sweep off the right tackle and scored a 20-yard touchdown. His score marked UF's first opening drive touchdown since the season-opener against Toledo. It was also the first time the Gators had led in a game since doing so against LSU on Oct. 12, a full month ago.
THE GOOD NEWS
Florida fought with grit, attitude and toughness and gave its best effort following a week in which many believed none of that was displayed. If the Gators keep this up, perhaps they can avoid a complete blowout against the Seminoles, which is what many expected after the Vanderbilt contest.
THE BAD NEWS
Though losing last week closed the coffin, dropping Saturday's game basically nailed it shut as far as UF's chances to advance to a bowl game were concerned. The only way Florida can do so now is to sweep its next two opponents, which is quite unlikely considering the second one is Florida State. The Gators also lost five-straight games in a single regular season for the first time since 1979.
A LOOK AHEAD
Florida hosts Georgia Southern next Saturday in its best chance to win a game before the season is out. The Gators will play at 2 p.m. in The Swamp, a game that can only be watched live on pay-per-view.