South Carolina beat Florida 28-20 on Saturday for its seventh win of the season. Here are five things we learned about the Gamecocks, four of which could have a big impact on the last two games of the regular season against Wofford and Clemson.
Jake Bentley has to take care of the ball: South Carolina’s sophomore starting quarterback had four interceptions in the first eight games of the season. He’s had five in the last two games, two against Georgia two weeks ago and three against the Gators on Saturday. Head coach Will Muschamp heartily endorsed his quarterback after the game but acknowledged that the Gamecocks “needed to dial it back a little bit” offensively during the game because Bentley was having trouble keeping the ball safe. Bentley only had four interceptions in his seven starts as a true freshman, but on the bright side, he ran for two touchdowns against Gators, marking the second time in three weeks he’s done that.
Muschamp was right about A.J. Turner: After enduring question after question early in the season about why the 180-pound A.J. Turner was getting this carry or that carry, Muschamp has been vindicated recently as Turner has blossomed, setting his career-high in yards twice in the last three weeks. He had 136 yards on 22 carries against the Gators. “I had a lot of space today,” Turner said. “Give all the credit to (the offensive line and tight ends), because without them I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did.”
The Gamecocks offense can go faster: South Carolina ran a season-high 76 plays against the Gators and that was even with four turnovers. The Gamecocks previous high for plays came in the second game of the season when it ran 68 against Missouri. For the season, South Carolina still is 12th in the SEC in plays per game, averaging 62.4. The quicker pace suited South Carolina as it had a season-high 496 yards, the most in an SEC game since Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper were hired prior to the 2016 season. The Gamecocks 24 first downs were their second most of the season.
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Rushing and third down defense go hand-in-hand: South Carolina held the Gators to 78 rushing yards, the fewest of any Gamecocks opponent all season. In conjunction with that, USC held Florida to 2-of-15 on third down conversions. As Muschamp pointed out after the game, the rushing total would have been truly miniscule if the Gamecocks hadn’t misplayed three runs – a 31-yarder, a 23-yarder and a 15-yarder. Those runs accounted for 69 yards. Florida’s other 19 carries combined for 9 yards.
Kinlaw and Stallworth are the new Abbott and Costello: USC defensive linemen Javon Kinlaw and Taylor Stallworth appeared at the postgame interview table together and stole the show from the gathered media, riffing on a downfield tackle by Kinlaw: “All that went through my mind was, ‘They better call the ambulance because this is a big boy,’” Stallworth said. Kinlaw added, “In my mind, I’m like, ‘I’m fixing to knock this boy out.’ I started drooling. I was like man, ‘Slow this guy down a little bit.’” The 300-pound Kinlaw also talked of his affinity for dancing on the field, “When I get hyped like that, I am like a little Chihuahua, bouncing all around.”