No. 12 Gators Beat Gamecocks 48-21
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The Fun ’n Gun offense still hasn’t regained much of its pop, although Florida’s point total had a familiar look to it.
Fred Taylor ran for three second-half touchdowns and Mike Moten returned a fumble 23 yards for a score Saturday, sparking the 12th-ranked Gators to a 48-21 victory over South Carolina.
Taylor broke a 14-14 deadlock with a 12-yard touchdown jaunt with 41 seconds left in the third quarter, then added scoring runs of 13 and 44 yards in the final period on the way to a 170-yard outing.
Jacquez Green added an 86-yard punt return for a TD as the Gators (8-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) again relied on other performances to make up for a shaky passing attack.
``The score was in no way indicative of the way the game went,″ Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. ``We got some long runs in the end and recovered a fumble, but South Carolina played us even. In fact, they should have been ahead.″
The Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) tied the game 14-14 when Boo Williams took the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a score, then missed chances to go in front after an interception and fumble recovery deep in Florida territory. Steve Florio had a 39-yard field goal blocked and was wide right on a 33-yard attempt.
``They got inside the 20 and we kept them out both times,″ linebacker Jevon Kearse said. ``It gave us a chance to step up and show what we can do under pressure.″
The Gators’ 395 yards total offense was their best in four games, but the aerial attack accounted for just 196 yards. Quarterbacks Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson combined to complete just 9-of-20 passes.
Brindise got the start, but was yanked as part of planned move by Spurrier after taking Florida to a TD on its opening drive. The fifth-year senior finally returned in the second half, leading the Gators on a 63-yard drive that put them in front for good.
``I wasn’t sure when I was coming back in. There was a chance it wouldn’t be at all,″ said Brindise, whose 38-yard pass to Green set up Taylor’s TD run. ``I figured if we started scoring some points, I’d stay in the game.″
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Florida’s Reggie McGrew caused Vic Penn to lose the handle as he dropped back to pass. Moten scooped up the bouncing ball and rumbled into the end zone to make the score 27-14.
Florida scored on its last three possessions, Taylor going in twice and Bo Carroll scoring on a 3-yard shovel pass from Jesse Palmer.
``I am very embarrassed with the way we finished. It was awful,″ South Carolina coach Brad Scott said. ``That is not the way we played in the first three quarters. I am very disappointed to let the ballgame get away from us.″
Taylor picked up 133 of his yards in the second half, pushing his total to 1,130 yards on the season. He is the first Gator to top 1,000 since Errict Rhett in 1993.
``Fred Taylor is without a doubt the key to this offense,″ Brindise said.
Penn, a redshirt freshman, completed 12-of-33 passes for 191 yards in his first collegiate start. He threw nine straight incompletions at one point in the second half.
``We did a lot of good things out there today,″ said Penn, who inherited the job when Anthony Wright was injured two weeks ago. ``Keep in mind that Florida’s a darn good football team and the defending national champions. I found out why today.″
Florida carried a 14-7 lead into halftime courtesy of Green’s punt return, the Gators’ longest since 1946. It was his second punt return for a TD this season and fourth of his career, both tying school marks.
Brindise led the Gators on a 10-play, 65-yard drive on the game’s opening series, hitting Jamie Richardson over the middle with a 2-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead.
The Gamecocks went three-and-out on their first two series before Penn heated up. He hit fullback Steve Mixon on a short pass that wound up going 40 yards to the Florida 18, then went to Kerry Hood for a 6-yard TD that tied the score 7-7.