South Carolina overcomes errors, beats crumbling Florida 28-20
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Jake Bentley threw for 249 yards and ran for two touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a 28-20 win over Florida on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (7-3, 5-3 Southeastern) had their best game of the season, gaining 469 yards, and needed that offense to overcome Bentley's three interceptions and a fumbled punt.
"At the end of the day, we won," Bentley 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.
A.J. Turner ran 22 times for 136 yards and Mon Denson rushed for the first two touchdowns of his career as South Carolina will finish second in the SEC East. They have just one title and fourth second-place finishes in 25 years in the league.
And in a common theme this season, South Carolina's defense came through. The Gators converted as many fourth downs (2 for 2) as third downs (2 for 15).
"We've shown tremendous resiliency throughout this year," South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said.
Florida still had one last chance before defensive back Jamyest Williams' interception on a tipped pass near midfield with just over a minute to go.
For the second game in a row, Florida started Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire at quarterback. He hurt his leg is the second quarter, left for a play, then crumpled to the ground as he tried to run. Freshman Feleipe Franks went 10 of 25 for 174 yards.
Zaire wanted to go back in the game and got emotional when he was held out, Shannon said.
Florida was missing at least 25 of its 85 scholarship players because of injuries or suspensions.
Florida: Florida has lost five in a row, their longest losing streak since finishing the 2013 season with seven straight losses amid the firing of Muschamp, now South Carolina's second-year coach ... Several Florida players found Muschamp after the game to shake his hand and hug him. Muschamp was fired at Florida in 2014 and is still being paid a buyout by the school.
South Carolina: Bentley, a sophomore, has 13 interceptions in his career. Five of them have come in the past two games ... South Carolina will finish with a winning record in the SEC for only the eighth time since joining the league in 1992. .... South Carolina's do-everything tight end Hayden Hurst caught five passes for 59 yards, ran once for 11 yards and forced a key fumble at the 1 as Florida defensive back CJ Henderson was a yard away from a touchdown on Bentley's first interception.
Florida: The Gators host UAB next Saturday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks host FCS Wofford next Saturday.