By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
Florida’s passing game couldn’t cut it in the homecoming loss to Missouri, so the Gators went back to their bread and butter Saturday.
After a season-low 113 rushing yards against the Tigers, UF rebounded in a big way. The Gators racked up a season-high 367 yards in their 35-31 victory over South Carolina.
Prior to that performance, Florida had only rushed for 350-plus yards in a game twice since 2010. Starter Jordan Scarlett, who rushed just six times last Saturday, led the team with a career-high 159 yards on 18 carries.
“It felt great just being out here and God answering all my prayers, man,” Scarlett said. “He blessed me with a lot (Saturday), me and all the running backs and this whole offense. Just really proud of us as a whole.”
Lamical Perine had the fourth 100-yard game of his career, rushing 16 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. The Gators also got contributions in the run game from wide receiver Kadarius Toney (51 yards) and quarterback Feleipe Franks (36 yards), who rushed for a pair of scores.
Much was made about Franks giving fans the ‘shush’ signal, but Perine admits he got in the action as well.
“I hushed the crowd today too, if you want to be real,” Perine said. “When you can run for almost 350 yards, you can win any game in the nation, really. So when everybody comes out and executes like we did in the second half, we can be a very good team.”
No package for Emory Jones
Mullen elected not to use freshman quarterback Emory Jones for the second straight week.
Jones received some playing time in the Georgia game, but did not play against Missouri or South Carolina. Mullen considered playing quarterback Kyle Trask against the Gamecocks, but his injury Wednesday didn’t open the door for Jones.
“I told Emory he’s the most popular guy in town. Trask gets hurt, Emory, he’s the biggest rock star there is, being the backup quarterback,” Mullen said. “(Kyle’s injury) was really at the very beginning of practice, before practice really got going. Saw a change in Emory’s attitude at that point right there.”
Jones also played in the season opener and can play in two more games before burning his redshirt. He’s expected to see the field next week against Idaho, and then Mullen has the option to use him at Florida State or in the bowl game.
Kyle Trask injury update
Jones won’t be the only backup quarterback available for the Gators when they go bowling.
Mullen revealed Saturday that Trask will be back for the bowl game. He suffered a fracture in his foot Wednesday and had minor surgery, but Mullen said Trask should be healed for postseason play.
The redshirt sophomore relieved Franks in the Missouri game and threw for 126 yards and a touchdown on 10-of-18 passing. Mullen did not know who he was going to start against South Carolina before Trask went down with his injury.
“I hadn’t made any decision about it,” Mullen said. “We hadn’t made any decision about anything, and then the decision kind of got made for us. It’s unfortunate for Kyle when those things happen.”
Three players sit out Saturday
In addition to Trask, the Gators had some other players miss the South Carolina game.
Florida announced prior to kickoff that three regulars would be out with injuries: offensive guard Brett Heggie, wide receiver Freddie Swain and safety Brad Stewart.
Swain’s absence was felt in the third quarter. Toney replaced Swain as the returner and muffed a punt inside UF territory, with South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel recovering at the 31-yard line. Fortunately for Toney, Florida’s defense held the Gamecocks to a field goal and kept them from going up by two touchdowns.
“That could’ve cost the game, honestly,” Toney said.
Jeawon Taylor started in place of Stewart and finished second on the team with nine tackles. Shawn Davis also saw action at safety and made six tackles.
Elite recruits in attendance
The Gators hosted several top targets for their final SEC home game of the season.
The nation’s No. 1 running back, Trey Sanders, was the biggest name on hand. The five-star recruit from IMG Academy is the younger brother of UF linebacker Umstead Sanders. Alabama and Florida appear to be the top two schools for the former Crimson Tide commit.
Florida State commit Derick Hunter took an official visit to UF this weekend. Despite his pledge, the four-star defensive lineman from Fort Myers is still considering the Gators and other teams.
Florida also had Seminoles DL commit Quashon Fuller (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) and top-100 athlete Mark-Anthony Richards (West Palm Beach) in attendance Saturday, among others.