No. 3 Florida drubs No. 9 South Carolina 44-11
Saturday, October 20, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Driskel threw four touchdown passes — three of them after turnovers — and No. 3 Florida matched its win total from last season with a 44-11 drubbing of ninth-ranked South Carolina on Saturday.
The Gators avenged consecutive losses to the Gamecocks, including one two years ago that ended with Steve Spurrier and his players celebrating a division title in The Swamp.
Florida's latest whatever-it-takes win kept coach Will Muschamp's team undefeated and put it on the cusp of the Southeasten Conference's Eastern Division title. The Gators (7-0, 6-0 SEC) can clinch a spot in the SEC championship game by beating No. 13 Georgia next week in nearby Jacksonville.
Florida won this one with turnovers, stellar defense and more halftime adjustments — the kind of successful tweaks that are making Muschamp and his staff seem like the right fit in Gainesville.
The Gators finished 7-6 last season, barely avoiding the program's first losing season since 1979. The struggles had outsiders questioning whether Muschamp could get them back to national prominence.
He's got them there now — even if it hasn't always been pretty.
Florida managed just 29 yards and two first downs in the first half against South Carolina (6-2, 4-2). But the Gators led 21-6 thanks to three turnovers.
Loucheiz Purifoy knocked the ball out of Connor Shaw's hands on the first play. Lerentee McCray recovered, giving Florida the ball at the 2-yard line. Driskel hooked up with Jordan Reed on third down, giving the Gators a lead they would never relinquish.
It also was a sign of things to come for the Gamecocks, who had trouble holding onto the ball all afternoon.
Ace Sanders fumbled on a punt return, Florida recovered and drove 29 yards for a 14-3 lead. Driskel found Quinton Dunbar for a 13-yard score. Dunbar spun out of DeVonte Holloman's grasp before coasting across the goal line.
On the ensuing kickoff, Solomon Patton forced Damiere Byrd to fumble. Chris Johnson picked it up and nearly scored. He was stopped at the 1, setting up Driskel's second TD pass to Reed. Driskel faked a handoff and found Reed alone in the back of the end zone, which made it 21-3.
The Gators could have had a first-half shutout, but penalties set up two field goals for the Gamecocks.
Florida forced South Carolina to punt before one, but a questionable, roughing-the-snapper penalty kept the drive alive. Adam Yates ended the possession with a 35-yarder. His 51-yarder on the final play of the first half came after an offside penalty on McCray.
Muschamp wasn't pleased with all the flags.
But they turned out to be fairly meaningless.
The Gators scored on all three possessions in the third quarter, getting a 6-yard TD run by Omarius Hines, a field goal and a 6-yard pass from Driskel to Frankie Hammond Jr.
They made South Carolina's defensive front, which dominated in the first half, look suspect. They also better controlled standout end pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who gave them fits early. And they kept South Carolina off balance with creative play-calling that included tight end Trey Burton in the wildcat.
Driskel completed 11 of 16 passes for 93 yards. Mike Gillislee ran 19 times for 37 yards. Reed caught four passes for 44 yards.
Florida's defense and special teams were much more impressive.
The Gators held South Carolina to 191 yards, including minus-1 in the third quarter. Marcus Lattimore, who didn't start because of a hip injury, ran just three times for 13 yards. And Florida dominated every aspect of special teams. In addition to the two forced fumbles, Kyle Christy had seven punts of at least 50 yards.
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