GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators did not want to waste the golden opportunity they received on the game's first play Saturday.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was sacked by cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who knocked the ball from Shaw's grasp and watched as teammate Lerentee McCray recovered at South Carolina's 2-yard line.
On Florida's first play, running back Mike Gillislee lost a yard. On second down, quarterback Jeff Driskel rolled out and threw incomplete as South Carolina linebacker Shaq Wilson chased him.
As the ringing in their ears started to subside from the loud eruption moments earlier, the Gators faced third-and-goal from the 3.
Driskel dropped back and looked for his favorite target: tight end Jordan Reed. Driskel's touchdown pass to Reed opened what turned into a big day for the Gators and Reed in a 44-11 win over the Gamecocks.
Reed caught four passes for 44 yards and had a career-high two touchdown receptions.
"I just played my part and did everything I was coached to do throughout the week,'' Reed said. "I just executed to the best of my ability. It was great. Any time I can have two touchdowns in a game, it's awesome as a receiver."
Reed's first score came just 59 seconds into the game. His next one came with 2:02 left in the first half and gave the Gators an early 21-3 lead in the SEC East showdown.
Once again, a turnover gave the Gators excellent field position. This time Florida took over at South Carolina's 1 when Gamecocks kickoff returner Damiere Byrd was stripped by Solomon Patton. Florida's Chris Johnson recovered and returned the fumble 13 yards.
Once again, the Gators turned to Gillislee on first down but he was stopped at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Reed got the call.
"The way they were playing us, they had a man over me covering me,'' Reed said. "If I faked down like I was going to block, it might catch them off-guard, and that's what we did."
Reed pretended to block, then snuck into the back of the end zone where Driskel found him wide open for a touchdown.
It was Reed's third touchdown catch of the season, which ties him with Frankie Hammond for the most on the team.
In his first season as the Gators' starting quarterback, Driskel has looked more to Reed than another other receiver.
The redshirt junior tight end out of Connecticut, who split time at quarterback and receiver as a freshman and moved permanently to tight end last season, leads the Gators with 25 receptions for 281 yards.
Seven games into the season and Reed is quickly approaching his totals from a year ago (28 receptions, 307 yards).
"The defense has to account for him,'' Driskel said. "They have to know where he is at all times. Football is about mismatches and he is definitely a mismatch.
"They are going to put a safety on him or a linebacker on him and I'll take him over any safety or linebacker in the country."
Reed showed off athletic skill twice on two big plays in the second half. The first one was a short pass from Driskel that Reed took 39 yards. It was the Gators' longest offensive play of the game and led to a Caleb Sturgis 42-yard field goal that gave Florida a 30-8 lead.
Fellow receiver Hammond, who added a 6-yard touchdown catch Saturday, said the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Reed's combination of size and speed offers an important ingredient to Florida's offense.
The Gators managed only 29 yards in the first half but Reed's two touchdowns were two more than South Carolina scored.
"He is a big target in those short-yardage situations and can make plays for us,'' Hammond said. "He is one our top weapons."
The second big play for Reed in the second half came midway through the fourth quarter after South Carolina's Adam Yates kicked a 30-yard field goal to trim the lead to 30-11.
South Carolina decided to try an onside kick. Reed jumped into the air, made the catch, and then took off. He wasn't stopped until 35 yards later at the Gamecocks' 11.
Three plays later freshman running back Matt Jones scored on a 1-yard run.
"I caught the ball. You are always nervous on an onside [kicks],'' Reed said. "I caught the ball. I was looking for the hit and nobody hit me, so I just took off."
It was that kind of game for Reed.