South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson saw it in the Florida Gators football players.
They were close to breaking.
“They were getting ready to go off that cliff,” Brunson said.
The Gators had lost two in a row and were trailing South Carolina by 17 with under 20 minutes to go. They were also facing a third and 8 and the prospect of giving the ball back to an offense that had been moving.
Then came a play that shifted things, a play as strange as you’ll see.
“Then that momentum changed, gave them the mindset they were back in it,” Brunson said. “After that happened, those guys picked it up and started playing harder.”
The play started with a bad snap that sent Florida signal caller Feleipe Franks scurrying after a fumble. A Gamecock defender nearly had it, but Franks managed to recover. Usually a player just falls on it, but Franks managed to get the ball and sling it downfield.
Then it bounced off a receiver’s hands, into another receiver’s hands. Trevon Grimes hauled it in and got 9 yards, preventing the Gators from having to give it back.
“He just made something,” Brunson said. “A freak catch, whatever that was, It should’ve been a dead play, but that guy made something happen.”
After that, everything went right for the Gators.
Florida averaged 7.8 yards per play the rest of the way, scoring three touchdowns and breaking a long run late to ice the game. South Carolina averaged 2.8, unable to burn clock or mount a late scoring drive.
USC coach Will Muschamp said he didn’t think that play turned things all that much.
“It kept the drive alive,” Muschamp said. “It was a critical third down situation. They’re trying to answer off a score. But I don’t know that it was a turning point. We left them on the field. … But our guys have handled those situations before.”
A senior lost
South Carolina had to play much of last season without versatile pass rusher/linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams because of a long-term injury.
They’ll be without him for the rest of this regular season as well.
Muschamp announced after the Florida game Allen-Williams had surgery on an injured ankle. He didn’t travel to Gainesville.
“Very similar situation to (DJ) Wonnum,” Muschamp said. “I think we’ll get him back for the bowl game, but I don’t know past that.”
▪ Team captains were Deebo Samuel, Keir Thomas, Rashad Fenton, Jake Bentley.
▪ Deebo Samuel’s 89-yard catch was the longest offensive play of his career.
▪ Safety R.J. Roderick and tailback Mon Denson made their first career starts.
▪ Tight end Kyle Markway scored his first career touchdown on a catch in the first quarter
▪ South Carolina had its second-worst day of the season in terms of yards per carry and yards per rush allowed. The totals of 6.4 and 5.9 were worse than only 6.7 yards per play allowed against Georgia and 6.2 yards per carry given up against Missouri.
▪ This is Muschamp’s fourth loss in the past five games of the Florida-South Carolina rivalry. In three years at USC, he’s lost both games in Gainesville, won at home, and lost his final two games to the Gamecocks as Gators head coach.