FOOTBALL

Abolverdi's Analysis: Gators will ride Pierce-led rushing attack to win

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Florida running back Dameon Pierce breaks for a run in the second half last Saturday against Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

In their last trip to Columbia, the Gators found themselves trailing early in the second half after South Carolina scored off a Kyle Trask interception. 

The Gamecocks had momentum on their side and Williams-Brice Stadium was rocking on a cold, rainy day, much like Saturday night will be.

Florida turned to Dameon Pierce on the ensuing drive and he answered the call in a big way. Pierce broke free and raced down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown, stunning the South Carolina crowd and tying the game at 17. 

Trask threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter as UF pulled out a 38-27 win, and Pierce finished with a team-high 87 yards rushing on seven carries. 

Pierce leads Florida’s tailbacks with 331 rushing yards this year, but is averaging less than seven carries per game (6.8). He’s yet to receive double-digit carries through the first two-thirds of the season, but now is the time.  

How to watch: Florida Gators vs. South Carolina Gamecocks on TV, live stream

In three career games against the Gamecocks, Pierce has 21 carries for 156 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. With cold, wet, and windy weather expected Saturday night and South Carolina’s struggles defending the run, expect a heavy dose of downhill running from Pierce and the Gators. 

The Gamecocks’ rush defense is No. 87 nationally, while their pass defense ranks 12th in the country and they lead the SEC with 11 interceptions. Florida quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson have combined for 14 interceptions, which is tied with Southern Miss for the most in the FBS. 

Simply put, it would behoove the Gators to run the ball in this game. 

Richardson was in concussion protocol this week and missed practice, so this will be Jones’ start. He has performed well in games where Richardson was out with injury (Alabama, Tennessee, second half vs. Georgia), and Jones won’t be looking over his shoulder in Columbia. 

Look for him to play with confidence, make an effort to avoid interceptions and outplay South Carolina quarterback(s) Jason Brown and/or Zeb Noland. Jones, Pierce and the Gators will run away with a much-needed win to avoid dropping below .500. 

Prediction: Florida 31, South Carolina 17

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