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Gators notebook: List of unavailable players grew vs. South Carolina

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida head coach Dan Mullen, left, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham sing the school's alma mater Saturday after winning the game against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida’s list of unavailable players grew Saturday with the addition of redshirt senior defensive back CJ McWilliams and freshman Jahari Rogers. As kick-off commenced, the Gators were also without defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, safeties Brad Stewart and Quincy Lenton, in addition to reserves Ethan White, Jordan Pouncey, Ethan Pouncey and Lamar Goods. 

Back-up quarterback Emory Jones, seen on UF's campus throughout the week with a brace on his throwing hand, was listed as available for Florida’s home opener, although he wouldn’t register any statistics in Florida’s 38-24 win over South Carolina. 

HOME-OPENER STREAK CONTINUES

The win extended Florida’s winning streak in home openers to 31 games, which is the longest streak in the nation by several games. Although official attendance was listed at just 15,120 (not counting the 2,348 cut-outs, of course, but we’ll get to those in a second), Gators linebacker Ventrell Miller said it felt good to be back on the team’s home field, regardless of crowd size.

“It’s always a great feeling to be in The Swamp,” Miller said. “I know, 15,000 fans, but the fans still brought the juice and it felt good to be in front of the home field.”

AS FOR THOSE CUT-OUTS …

Florida’s stands looked slightly more full than they actually were, thanks to the help of nearly 2,400 cardboard cut-outs. The program sold customizable cut-outs for the five-game season for the price of $79 for fans with regular admission and $29 for students. On top of sizable pictures of absent Florida fans, the program mixed in various celebrities and familiar faces, including Tom Petty, Ric Flair, Tim Tebow, and many more. Edward Aschoff, the late ESPN writer and a former GatorSports writer who also previously played in Florida’s marching band, had a cutout reserved in front of the Gators band. 

A cardboard cutout of Tom Petty sits in the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Florida's game against South Carolina.

PITTS MAKES EARLY IMPACT

The Kyle-to-Kyle connection picked up right where it left off. In the first quarter of Saturday’s home opener against South Carolina, Kyle Pitts hauled in his fifth touchdown of the season on an 18-yard pass from Kyle Trask. The junior tight end would finish the game with two touchdowns on four receptions for 57 yards, giving him six touchdowns on the season. With 12 touchdowns to date in his UF career, Pitts has now tied the program record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end. 

TONEY GOES FOR CAREER-HIGH

Much of the discussion about Kadarius Toney’s return to Florida this season centered around his need to improve as an all-around wide receiver. Saturday’s showing against the Gamecocks furthered the notion Toney’s been doing just that since returning to Gainesville. 

Toney hauled in a team-high six receptions for a career-high 86 yards in Florida’s 38-24 victory, eclipsing his previous UF-best of 72 yards on Nov. 3, 2018 against Missouri. His 57-yard receiving touchdown, which saw Toney dash past several South Carolina defenders into the end zone, was Toney’s second-longest reception to date behind last year’s 66-yard touchdown against Miami. 

BOWMAN COMMITS TO GATORS IN FIRST HALF

Gators running backs Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce combined for 40 total yards and a touchdown through roughly 26 minutes of play Saturday, but the duo may have been upstaged by another ball-carrier. 

As halftime approached, former Lakeland standout and Clemson five-star running back Demarkcus Bowman confirmed his intentions to transfer to Florida from the Tigers. Bowman, ranked the No. 2 running back prospect in the 2020 class by 247Sports, appeared in both of Clemson’s games this season, rushing for 32 yards on nine total carries. Upon entering the transfer portal, Bowman cited the death of his grandfather, a lifelong Clemson fan, as one of the primary reasons he decided to return to his home state of Florida. Bowman is finishing up his semester through online classes before enrolling at Florida in January.