Saturday November 16, 2013Gators Fall Short as South Carolina Rallies in Second Half
Florida freshman running back Kelvin Taylor had two touchdown runs in the first half.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Florida quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg will remember his first college start for the rest of his life.
That one fourth-quarter pass, though, he'd just as soon forget.
Mornhinweg, the redshirt freshman summoned when starter Tyler Murphy was a pre-game scratch with a shoulder injury, tried to force a throw under duress with the game very much in the balance. The ball was intercepted by South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree and the 11th-ranked Gamecocks held off the Gators 19-14 Saturday night in their Southeastern Conference game at sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium.
The defeat was the fifth straight for UF (4-6, 3-5) and marked the Gators' longest losing skid since they went 0-10-1 in 1979.
USC quarterback Connor Shaw passed for 213 yards, including a key second-half touchdown strike, and Elliott Fry booted four field goals, including two in the fourth quarter, as the the Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2) won their 16th straight home game and now need a loss by Missouri to win the SEC East Division.
UF freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor rushed 21 times for a career-best 96 yards and two touchdowns that capped two long drives, but other than that the Gators struggled to get much going offensively and, frankly, played things close to the vest to protect their rookie quarterback.
Mornhinweg completed 10 of his 13 passes for 107 yards and the one interception, the only turnover of the game by either team. The Gators finished with 307 yards of total offense.
The Gamecocks totaled 377 yards of offense, with 102 rushing from Shon Carson.
Still, the Gators led 14-13 heading into the final period, but field goals from Fry of 23 and 45 yards proved the difference. The Gamecocks scored all 13 points of the second half, after UF took a 14-6 edge into the locker room.
Fry's last field goal kick came with 2:16 to go in the game and gave the Gators a chance to win it with a long drive -- but it had to end with a touchdown.
On first-and-10 from the USC 48, Morninweg was flushed to his right and toward the sidelines. Instead of chucking the ball out of bounds, he lobbed it down the right sideline, well short of intended receiver Quinton Dunbar and into the waiting arms of Legree.
The Gamecocks' comeback started coming out of the locker room after halftime.
Shaw misfired on several passes in the first half, but started finding his mark in the second. He connected with tailback Bruce Ellington for a 32-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-3 to pull the Gamecocks within 14-13. USC coach Steve Spurrier, down eight points, opted to bypass a field goal attempt to make the mark and went for it all. Shaw was flushed to his right and hoisted a pass that spun around UF cornerback Brian Poole.
Ellington caught it in the end zone to draw the Gamecocks within a point and instantly drew the crowd back into the game at the 10:23 mark of the period.
The Gators, with the aid of a 28-yard Mornhinweg-to-Mack Brown screen pass on third-and-8, marched to the USC 8 and had a great chance to increase their lead. But that's where but Austin Hardin hooked a 32-yard field goal wide to the left.
Carolina got a 30-yard completion, Shaw to Ellington, to midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter. But facing a fourth-and-3 from the UF 43, Spurrier again decided to gamble, only this time a pitch play to Mike Davis was snuffed out in the backfield by true freshman linebacker Jarrad Davis and Poole for a 2-yard loss.
The Gators managed just one first down on the ensuing drive and punted the ball away, with the Gamecocks going on a march with a chance to take the lead.
Spurrier didn't gamble this time, even though his offense drove deep in Florida territory. He opted for the short field goal from Fry to give his team its first lead since the first quarter, a 16-14 edge with 6:43 to play.
On UF's next possession, it faced a fourth-and-13 at its 32 and attempted a fake punt, with Trey Burton shifting into position, taking the snap, rolling to his right and hoisting a pass to defensive lineman Leon Orr about 20 yards downfield. Orr went up for the ball between two USC defenders, but the ball bounced off his hands.
South Carolina took over and four plays later Fry kicked field goal No. 4 and make it a five-point lead and force the Gators to go for the touchdown.