USC gave top ranked Florida all they wanted for three quarters but a tough interception to start the 4th ended the Gamecocks upset bid and the Gators got out of Williams-Brice Stadium with a hard fought 24-14 win.
At the start of the 4th quarter Florida was holding a 17-14 lead but USC was on the move. The Gamecocks opened the quarter facing a third and two from the Gator 22 yard line. Stephen Garcia dropped back to pass and was looking to hit Moe Brown on a slant pattern but Brown wasn’t expecting the pass and it was deflected and intercepted by Florida defensive end Justin Trattou. Trattou returned the pick deep into USC territory to set up a touchdown that all but sealed the win for the top ranked Gators.
AUDIO: Steve Spurrier postgame (8:34)
Steve Spurrier said the pass that was intercepted was designed to go to Jason Barnes and he wasn’t sure why Garcia decided to throw to Brown. Garcia’s explanation was he thought the coverage was better on Brown’s side so he decided to throw his way. Brown clearly wasn’t expecting the pass and never had a chance make the catch.
AUDIO: Garcia post Florida (5:11)
AUDIO: Moe Brown post Florida
The offense did some good things but once again the problems up front reared its ugly head. Garcia was sacked six times and knocked down or hurried on almost every play. He finished his night 17-32 for 186 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions. His touchdown was a nine yarder to Weslye Saunders late in the second quarter. That is the play that pulled the Gamecocks within three and made for an interesting game.
Saunders, who last week complained about his lack of touches, finished with five catches for 62 yards. Alshon Jeffery had six receptions for 57 yards. The Gamecocks finished with 18 first downs (actually one more than Florida) and with 247 yards of total offense. Again, the killer was the lack of protection from the line and some carelessness with the football. The interception to start the fourth quarter was the game changer and the offense finished the game with three turnovers. Florida had none. USC needed a perfect game to knock off the Gators and they didn’t get that from the offense.
The defense didn’t play perfect either but they did play well. They gave up a 68 yard touchdown pass on Florida’s first possession and the Gators scored on each of their first three drives. But then the Gamecock defense settled in and made things difficult for Tim Tebow and company.
AUDIO: Assitant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson (5:11)
Florida didn’t score in the third quarter and their scoring drive in the fourth was set up by the Garcia interception return. The defense didn’t force any turnovers but they did sack Tebow twice and held the Gators below their average in scoring. In short, they gave their team a chance to win the game.
AUDIO: Florida coach Urban Myer (11:11)
AUDIO: Tim Tebow post USC (6:35)
USC drops to 6-5 and finishes with a 3-5 record in the SEC. The Gators move to 10-0 and finish a perfect 8-0 in the SEC. They will face Alabama in the SEC title game next month.
So what does it all mean for USC? I’m sure Gamecock fans are disappointed but they have to feel better than they did the past two years against the Gators. Heck, last year they lost by 50 in the Swamp. Carolina did play much better than it has the past two weeks. Perhaps the team can build on the positives of this game during their bye week and finish with a strong effort against Clemson in the season finale. There is really no such thing as a moral victory and the players and coaches all were visibly disappointed they didn’t take advantage of the upset opportunity.
During the postgame more than one player and coach said “The second season starts now” referring to the Clemson game as a new season and a fresh start. The team doesn’t seem as fragile as it has been the past few years during the now annual November slide.
Will that translate to a win against Clemson? I’m not betting on it. But if you are a Gamecock fan you have to feel better about your chances than you did this time last week.