For a team that has given up more sacks than anyone in the SEC, South Carolina hit a new low Saturday in a 24-14 loss to No. 1 Florida.
The Gators sacked Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia six times, including four in the fourth quarter. It was the most sacks USC has allowed since giving up six in a 24-17 loss to LSU last season.
"Second half we just kept getting sacked and going down with the ball, which kills your momentum," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had second-and-20 about half the time. You can't play like that. You've got to throw the ball away. But we haven't taught Stephen to throw it away, yet."
Garcia said Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus talked to him after the game about getting rid of the ball sooner. Florida used a variety of blitzes against the Gamecocks, although USC players said they were prepared for the stunts.
Florida coach Urban Meyer met Garcia on the field after the game and told the right-hander he has come a long way from the 2008 season when Garcia shared time with Chris Smelley.
Garcia has said he was "lost" during the Gamecocks' 56-6 loss at the Swamp.
"(Meyer) said compared to last year, it's - I mean, he used some explicit language - but he said I'm a lot better this year," Garcia said. "He said I'm throwing the ball very well, and he's very impressed. He wished me and the rest of the team good luck the rest of the year."
Garcia completed 17 of 32 passes for 186 yards, snapping his streak of consecutive 300-yard passing games at three. He had a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Weslye Saunders.
"I think it's night and day. I talked to him after the game," Meyer said. "His father and myself are very good friends. He actually texted me the other day. A first class family and he is an excellent quarterback. Much better than he was than a year ago. I told him out there that he really throws the ball well and they have some excellent young receivers."
For the second year in a row against Florida, the Gamecocks botched a trick play on special teams in the first half. Last year it was a fumbled lateral on a kickoff return that set up a Gators' touchdown.
Saturday, the Gamecocks had a successful fake punt on their first possession wiped out by penalty. Punter Spencer Lanning lofted a pass to D.J. Swearinger down the left sideline to convert a fourth-and-3, but USC was whistled for an illegal shift.
Spurrier said an official told him USC's linemen were not set before the snap.
"There may have been one wiggling around," Spurrier said. "Maybe (Charles Turner) snapped it a little quick. We wanted to get up there and get set and snap it. They don't cover the guy out there. D.J. made a great catch."
A couple of defensive starters returned to the lineup after missing the Arkansas game.
Defensive end Cliff Matthews, who was a game-time decision with a shoulder injury, came off the bench and finished with two tackles, including a sack of Tim Tebow. Matthews played with a protective brace under his shoulder pads.
USC assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said Matthews came out of the game in good physical shape.
"Obviously, that next game (against Clemson) is hugely important to us, and we didn't want to lose him again for two weeks," Johnson said.
Free safety Chris Culliver was back after missing the Arkansas trip because of a shoulder injury and a disciplinary issue. The junior walked off the practice field two weeks ago following an argument with a coach.
Culliver had five tackles, but was late reacting to a post route Riley Cooper caught for a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks had two favorable instant-replay reviews in the first half. The replay official upheld Saunders' 9-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone, and a Florida incompletion on the ensuing possession. ...
Former USC track sprinter Bryce Sherman made his first career start when the Gamecocks opened in an unorthodox alignment. Sherman, a walk-on from North Carolina, had a 1-yard gain in the first half. ...
USC's women's soccer team, which faces Rutgers today in the second round of the NCAA tournament, received a loud ovation when it was introduced during a first-half timeout.