Gators facing losing season
Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 12:38 a.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Desperately trying to reverse their faltering and fading season with a big upset win against the nation's No. 11 team, the Florida Gators nearly pulled it off Saturday night.
1. Kelvin Taylor's touchdown runs of 20 and 29 yards gave the Gators a rare first-half lead, 14-6, but UF could not make it hold up in the second half, getting outscored 13-0.
2. Florida, which lost its fifth consecutive game, played without starting quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was held out with a sprained right shoulder.
3. The Gators drop to 4-6 and now are in danger of having their first losing season since 1979. UF needs to sweep Georgia Southern and No. 2 FSU to become bowl eligible.
-- Robbie Andreu
But, in the end, it was simply more of the same. More heartbreak and another painful loss — a 19-14 crusher to South Carolina that extends the Gators' losing streak to five games and puts 4-6 UF in danger of having its first losing season since the 1979 team went 0-10-1.
“The bottom line is winning,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “We did not do it. We did not get the job done.”
Of all those previous losses this season, this one may be the toughest to stomach because the Gators, even playing without injured starting quarterback Tyler Murphy, put themselves in a position to win the game in the second half, but failed to make the plays that could have gotten it done.
While it was more frustration for the Gators, it was a big night for former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, whose team is now in position to possibly win the East Division after Georgia's loss at Auburn on Saturday. The Gamecocks move to 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC. If Missouri loses another conference game, USC is going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
“I knew this was going to be a tough game all week,” Spurrier said. “I told our players that. They've got big, strong offensive and defensive linemen. Fortunately, they're not a very good passing team right now. I think we were just meant to win this one tonight.
“Our guys got tough in the second half and shut down Florida pretty good. Somehow or another, it worked out for us. I'm proud of our guys, they played like winners.
“Maybe something bigger is going to happen for us later down the road. We'll watch Missouri play a little bit from a distance.”
While the Gamecocks could eventually end up in Atlanta, the Gators likely are going nowhere in December, or January. To become bowl eligible and still have a chance to avoid a losing season, UF must sweep Georgia Southern and No. 2 Florida State in the next two weeks in The Swamp.
Thanks to two touchdown runs by true freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor and a gritty performance by the maligned UF defense, the Gators took a 14-6 lead into halftime, but could not make it hold up.
South Carolina shut out the offensively challenged Gators in the second half 13-0. The winning points came on a 22-yard field goal by Elliott Fry with 6:43 left in the game.
The Gamecocks had made it a one-point game, 14-13, early in the third quarter on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Bruce Ellington.
UF, which played it conservatively throughout the game with Murphy out, took a big gamble to try and regain the lead after Fry's go-ahead field goal. But a fake punt on fourth-and-13 from their own 26-yard line, with receiver Trey Burton throwing a pass down the middle to 304-pound defensive tackle Leon Orr, failed for the Gators when Orr could not hold onto the ball with 4:40 to play.
“We felt like we would hit it,” Muschamp said of the fourth-down gamble. “We had it open and should have hit it and didn't get it done.”
The Gamecocks added another Fry field goal, this one from 43 yards with 2:16 left in the game, to increase their lead to 19-14.
Any chance of a late comeback was erased moments later, when true freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, who made his first career start Saturday night, threw an interception to Jimmy Legree on a first-down play from the USC 48 with 1:22 to play.
Mornhinweg threw only two passes in the first half, completing both for only eight yards. For the game, he was 10 of 13 for 107 yards and the interception.
Most of Florida's offense was produced by Taylor and fellow tailback Mack Brown.
Taylor had touchdown runs of 20 and 29 yards in the first half and finished the game with 96 yards rushing on 21 carries. Brown chipped in 51 yards. The Gators were outgained 377 yards to 307.
South Carolina's winning drive in the fourth quarter was sparked by a 58-yard run up the middle by No. 3 tailback Shon Carson on a first-and-15 play from the Gamecocks' own 5-yard line. Four plays later, the Gamecocks took the lead for good with Fry's 22-yard field goal.
Muschamp said after the game that Murphy's shoulder injury, which has limited him in practice the past month, has not ended his season. He's expected to be day-to-day next week heading into the Georgia Southern game.