Friday, November 20, 2015

UF Football: #11 Florida Sweeps Through SEC East

With their 24-14 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks last Saturday, the #11 Florida Gators have finished with a perfect 6-0 record in the SEC East. This season marks the first time Florida has accomplished this feat since Tim Tebow's senior year in 2009.

The game was not as close as the score indicated as Florida led by 17 at one point in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks rallied to cut the lead to three, but it would not be enough as a Kelvin Taylor touchdown run in the fourth quarter sealed the game with a little over two minutes remaining.

This clutch score proved to be Taylor's only touchdown of the day as he rushed 20 times for 105 yards. Taylor had the play of the game when he broke a 53-yard run to the South Carolina one-yard line on third down and eight with the Gators up three to set up his touchdown run on the next play.

The other two Gator touchdowns came from fellow running back Jordan Cronkrite. He rushed for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter and caught a poorly thrown ball by QB Treon Harris (which should have been intercepted) in the second quarter.

Cronkrite had just two catches, but his 49 receiving yards were the second most on the team behind Antonio Callaway's 60. Callaway was Florida's leading receiver along with tight end Jake McGee, as they both had five receptions a piece for a combination of 95 yards .

For the man throwing the ball, it was a decent game for Treon. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 256 with a great play by Cronkrite serving as his only touchdown pass. He threw two picks, was sacked three times, and ran 10 times for 16 yards. It was definitely a better outing for Harris compared to some prior contests, but I am simply just not sold on him.

Defensively, the Gators shutdown South Carolina until the Gamecocks' mini rally in the fourth quarter. For the game, Florida held South Carolina to just 201 yards of total offense. They forced two turnovers as defensive backs Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor each had an interception.

The defensive line feasted as Jonathan Bullard (0.5), Jordan Sherit (1.5), Caleb Brantley (1.0), and Bryan Cox Jr. (1.0) combined for four sacks. The Gators could have had two more turnovers as Alex McCalister and Marcus Maye each forced a fumble, but South Carolina recovered both times.

In addition to recording half a sack, Bullard was one of Florida's leading tacklers on the day as he and Keanu Neal each notched five tackles. Behind them, four Gators had three tackles and five had two tackles.

As the offense slightly improved and the defense held strong as always, special teams had another solid outing. Austin Hardin nailed his only attempt from 39 yards out and converted all of his extra points. Three of his five kickoffs were touchbacks.

For the Ray Guy Award Semifinalist (and complete stud) Johnny Townsend, it was just another day at the office. Townsend sent off a total of four punts for an average of 46.5 yards. He longest punt was 57 yards and he landed just one kick inside the 20-yard line.

Final Takeaway:
Florida continues trucking ahead in what has been an absolutely incredible season! This is the first time in my three years at UF that I have seen the Gators beat the Gamecocks. I will not lie, it is a pretty satisfying feeling despite South Carolina's mediocrity.

Looking ahead, the #8 Florida Gators (9-1) look to secure their first double-digit win season since the 2012 campaign with a home contest against the FAU Owls (2-8) on November 21st. This should not be a difficult game for the Gators at all, and I fully expect this one to be over by the half.

However, I think FAU might be motivated to play considering Coach Mac gave them some fighting words when he said, "We got a team coming in that's full of a bunch of Florida guys that wishes they were Gators." Now, I know Coach Mac said this as a message to the media that Florida is not overlooking FAU, but that is probably not how the Owl players interpreted it.

Regardless if Coach Mac's latest "McElwainism" was a shot at FAU or not, this game will be a no-doubter. It will give Treon some good practice to get his accuracy (and overall QB play) down before the Florida State game. This will be the Gators' third straight (and final) noon game and it can be seen on the SEC Network.

As for South Carolina (3-7), they do not have much to play for except for maybe ruining Clemson's undefeated season at the end of the year. Until then, they as well have a home noon contest with their opponent being the Citadel Bulldogs (7-3). This game can also be seen on the SEC Network.

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