Turnovers doom Gamecocks in 44-11 loss to Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. No. 9/8 South Carolina was unable to overcome three costly first-half turnovers as it fell to No. 3/4 Florida, 44-11, on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The Gamecocks turned the ball over three times in the first half deep in their own territory, which led to 21 points for the Gators.
With the loss, South Carolina falls to 6-2 on the season and 4-2 in SEC play. It is the Gamecocks' first lost against a SEC Eastern Division opponent since 2010 at Kentucky. The Gators move to 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference.
South Carolina outgained the Gators 191-183 in total offense, but four turnovers allowed Florida to finish the contest with an average starting field position of the 50-yard line.
Senior placekicker Adam Yates made field goals of 35, 51 and 30 yards to score the majority of South Carolina's points, while sophomore defensive back Victor Hampton returned a blocked extra point attempt for two points on Florida's first score of the second half.
Sophomore quarterback Dylan Thompson led South Carolina with 83 yards passing, while junior Connor Shaw had 72 yards through the air.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 11-of-16 passes for 93 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Gators.
Defensively, senior linebacker Reginald Bowens tied a career high with 11 tackles to lead the Gamecocks, while senior spur DeVonte Holloman added eight tackles and a sack. Defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney also had a sack apiece for South Carolina.
The Gamecock defense dominated the first half, holding Florida to just 29 yards of offense. However, three turnovers by the offense led to 21 points for the Gators.
On the first play of the game, Florida defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy stripped Shaw at the Gamecock 5-yard line, and the Gators recovered the fumble at the 2.
The turnover set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Jordan Reed that gave Florida a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
South Carolina shook off the early miscue and went on a 15-play, 61-yard scoring drive. Yates capped the drive with a 35-yard field goal to trim Florida's lead to 7-3.
The Gamecock defense then forced four straight three-and-outs, but after the fourth Ace Sanders fumbled the punt, and the Gators recovered at the South Carolina 29. Six plays later, Driskel connected with Quinton Dunbar for a 13-yard scoring strike to give Florida a 14-3 lead with three minutes left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Damiere Byrd fumbled on the return, and it was recovered by Florida's Chris Johnson at the South Carolina 13 and returned to the 1-yard line. Driskel then gave the Gators a 21-3 lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Reed with 2:02 left in the half.
South Carolina gained some momentum heading into the locker room, as Yates drilled a career-long 51-yard field as time expired to cut Florida's lead to 21-6. However, the Gamecocks were outscored 23-5 in the second half.
South Carolina will return to action at home next Saturday against Tennessee. Kickoff has been set for 12 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.