At times on Saturday afternoon, it looked as though South Carolina’s run game simply could not match Florida’s defensive front, as the Gators stuffed the Gamecocks for a loss or no gain 10 times.
But for every one, USC’s running backs came back with explosive plays of their own, racking up a season-high 220 yards – two-thirds of which came on just eight of their 47 attempts.
A.J. Turner, Mon Denson, Jake Bentley and Hayden Hurst all picked up first downs with their feet, bursting through a Florida defense that allowed massive holes to open up several times.
Afterward, Florida coach Randy Shannon cited his team’s poor health as the reason South Carolina was able to generate so many big yardage plays.
“Mismatches,” Shannon said when asked what caused the big plays on his defense. “We’ve got a lot of injuries on this football team. We had a lot of guys play injured today. It’s the difference between injured and hurt. Hurt means you ... cannot go. Injury is like a little bruise, a bruised thigh, a bruised forearm, a bruised shin. Those things are nicks that affect you. But those guys, it was just, we took advantage of what we can, we tried to get our best players on the guys we felt like we had a good one-on-one matchup with, and we did.”
But it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks from generating 12 “chunk plays,” as USC coach Will Muschamp calls them – passes of 20 or more yards and runs of 10 or more yards. Muschamp said his team aims to have eight of those plays in a typical game.
Shannon also seemed to say the Gamecocks would not have had as much success running the ball had they faced Florida earlier in the season.
“No excuses, but when you have the numbers like that early in the season, when we had all those defensive linemen, linebackers, safeties, guys like that, we were pretty good. Got a little watered down, but like I said ... you’re not going to make excuses,” Shannon said.
Muschamp, for his part, praised the remaining players on Florida’s “good defense” and gave his team credit for besting the Gators on the ground.
“I know they’ve had their share of injuries, but ... Cece Jefferson and Taven Bryan and (Jabari) Zuniga – they’ve got good football players. I was extremely pleased with how we were able to run the football,” Muschamp said.