Florida Gators put together complete effort in 38-6 win over South Carolina. Here are our takeaways.
The Florida Gators put it all together in their home finale at The Swamp.
The Gators (6-4, 3-4 SEC) won their second straight game and clinched bowl eligibility in a dominant 38-6 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks before a sellout crowd.
Florida avenged a 40-17 loss at South Carolina last season and beat the Gamecocks at The Swamp for the 17th time in their last 19 meetings.
"The football is improving because the people are improving," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "There’s a brotherhood in that room, there’s a connection in that room and they’re starting to play the game with a right intent."
Starting quarterback Anthony Richardson, in what could be his last game at The Swamp, passed for 112 yards and two TDs while rushing for 96 yards and another TD. Richardson could choose to declare for the NFL draft when the season ends, where opinions vary on whether he will be a high pick.
“I haven’t really thought about it," Richardson said when asked about his NFL future. "After the Georgia loss, we were just trying to get the team rolling again, trying to get back on track, so I haven’t really thought about that, so, win every game now and go to the bowl game.”
Montrell Johnson added a career-high 161 yards rushing and one TD. Florida jumped to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter and cruised from there, surrendering its lone touchdown on special teams.
Game recap:Florida Gators in complete control, trounce South Carolina Gamecocks 38-6 on Senior Night
All in the family:Trevor Etienne sprints away for a Gators 85-yard TD, and big brother Travis loves it
Here are five takeaways from the game:
Florida Gators' run game dominant again
After rushing for 291 yards last week against Texas A&M, Florida had another big day on the ground against the Gamecocks.
Florida rushed for 281 yards in the first half and 374 yards for the game on 6.9 yards per carry. In addition to Johnson, rushing for 161 yards, Trever Etienne rushed for 100 yards on eight carries, becoming the first true freshman to rush for 100 yards since Malik Davis rushed for 100 yards against Vanderbilt.
Richardson rushed for 96 yards, with Richardson, Etienne and Johnson all scoring rushing TDs.
“It’s what we’ve done in the past. It’s what we’re good at, and I think you have to play to the strengths of your team," Napier said.
Gators get off to a fast start
Florida scored touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions to take a 21-0 lead. The Gators took the opening drive of the game 14 plays on 75 yards, with Richardson capping the drive with a 3-yard TD.
Richardson then found receiver Ricky Pearsall on a 15-yard TD pass to cap an eight-play, 64-yard drive to put Florida up 14-0.
An explosive play then put Florida up 21-0, with Etienne scoring on an 85-yard run, the seventh-longest TD run in Florida history and longest since La'Mical Perine ran an 88-yard TD during the 2019 season against Auburn. Florida outgained the Gamecocks 219-37 in the first quarter.
Defense carries over from Texas A&M game
Florida's defense carried over from its performance against Texas A&M, forcing a three-and-out on South Carolina's first offensive possession while limiting the Gamecocks to just 37 yards in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Florida forced turnovers on South Carolina's first three offensive possessions, beginning with Rashad Torrence forcing and recovering a fumble and continuing with Desmond Watson recovering a fumble and freshman safety Kamari Wilson forcing a fumble that was recovered by Trey Dean.
Watson's turnover, and stiff-arm on the run, drew a rise from the Florida sideline.
"That was next-level stuff," Napier said. "We got a (sideline) warning and rightfully so. Man, the guy just ripped it out of his hands and that’s a 440-pound man trying to run with that ball. Six-foot-five-and-a-half. I’m proud of Des. He’s come a long way and he’s only going to get better."
Florida came up with a big stop on fourth down in the red zone in the fourth quarter, pressuring South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler into an interception.
Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr., replacing the departed Brenton Cox Jr., came up with a sack for the second straight week.
"We’ve done a good job of sticking with and getting consumed with the process of preparing to play," Napier said of the defense. "I do think the staff has done a terrific job of making tweaks. We’ve improved in certain statistic areas that were not up to part, not the standard.
Special teams struggle
Florida was caught napping late in the second quarter when South Carolina punter Kai Kroeger connected with wide receiver Dakereon Joyner on a 48-yard TD pass, cutting UF's lead to 24-6 at halftime.
In addition, kicker Adam Mihalek had one third-quarter field goal attempt blocked. A field goal attempt later in the third quarter failed when holder Jeremy Crawshaw failed to put down the snap.
South Carolina receiver Josh Vann came up with a 37-yard punt return late in the third quarter, with 15 more yards tacked on due to a face-mask penalty.
Crawshaw redeemed himself in the fourth quarter with a 67-yard punt. Xzavier Henderson failed to cleanly field a punt in the first quarter. Florida recovered the muff, but Ricky Pearsall entered the game to field punts for the remainder of the game.
"We made a handful of errors tonight I think we can clean up," Napier said. "Kicking game in particular, I thought was a little sloppy. But they’re good. They work hard at it. They invest time in it. They’ve got really good people adding that area of their team. They work at it, and they’re good at it."
Freshman receiver Caleb Douglas steps up
With Justin Shorter out with a hamstring injury, true freshman Caleb Douglas started at receiver, becoming the first true freshman to start at the position since Kadarius Toney against Kentucky in 2017.
Douglas came up with a 15-yard catch on third-and-10 in Florida's opening touchdown drive and finished the game with a team-high 53 yards receiving on three catches.
"Caleb Douglas continues to get better with experience," Napier said. "He’s been productive. He’s got a huge ceiling. That guy’s gonna get better and better."