Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UF Football: Florida Spoils Muschamp's Return

As he was accustomed to during his tenure as Florida's head coach, Will Muschamp took a loss in the Swamp last Saturday as the Florida Gators (7-2, 5-2 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) by a score of 20-7 on Senior Day.

Making his first start at home, graduate transfer Austin Appleby was much more efficient this time around. He completed 17 of his 21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. On the ground, he took off six times for 34 yards.

The Appleby that Florida got in this game resembled the first-half Tennessee version that threw for three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards. With Luke Del Rio ruled out for the upcoming game against LSU, Appleby will need to play like this if Florida has any chance of winning their second consecutive SEC East title.

In the running game, Florida thankfully gained more than 12 total yards. Jordan Scarlett came back with a vengeance as the sophomore rushed for 134 yards on 20 carries. Scarlett had more attempts alone in this game than the entire team did against Arkansas last week (12 total carries).

Scarlett averaged 6.7 yards per carry and his longest run was 32 yards. He has reasserted himself as the lead back, and hopefully will continue to serve as the workhorse going forward in Florida's last two regular season games.

In the receiving corps, sophomore Antonio Callaway once again found away to replicate his performances from the last two games. He nabbed four passes for the third straight game and totaled 48 receiving yards. Among his last three games, this is the most receiving yards Callaway has had.

Joining Callaway as Florida's leading yard-getter was senior Ahmad Fulwood. Fittingly enough on Senior Day, Fulwood had two catches for 48 yards and was able to haul in his third career touchdown reception with a snag in the second quarter.

The only other Gator to get in the end zone was redshirt sophomore tight end C'yontai Lewis. He caught four passes for 38 yards and kicked off the scoring with a touchdown reception in the first quarter. Rounding out the receivers, Brandon Powell had three receptions for 32 yards.

The Gator offense accumulated 372 total yards while obtaining 18 first downs. Appleby was kept clean for relatively most of the game as Carolina only sacked him once.

Defensively, Florida allotted 256 yards and did not give up a score until midway through the fourth quarter. They picked off the Gamecocks once and sacked quarterback Jake Bentley five times.

The sack culprits were all defensive linemen and are as follow: Joey Ivie (two), Taven Bryan (one), Jordan Sherit (0.5), Keivonnis Davis (0.5), Bryan Cox Jr. (0.5), and Khairi Clark (0.5).

Ivie is the lone senior of the group and forced a fumble at the end of second quarter of the contest as well. He was not alone though, as Taven Bryan forced and also recovered his own fumble in the second quarter.

Among the tackling leaders, true freshman David Reese was a pleasant surprise. Making his first career start at linebacker in Jarrad Davis's absence, Reese notched 11 tackles (1 TFL) to lead both teams on the day. Behind him was cornerback Quincy Wilson with nine wrap ups (1 TFL), safety Marcell Harris and linebacker Kylan Johnson with seven (1 TFL for both), and cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor with six.

In the secondary, Marcell Harris came down with his second interception of both the season and his career in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Besides the interception, the secondary logged in two pass breakups courtesy of safeties Nick Washington and Marcus Maye. The latter broke his arm in the game, and has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Special Teams
In the kicking game, Eddy Pineiro was fantastic. Attempting both his field goals in the third quarter, Pineiro drilled a career-high 54 yarder as well as a 36 yarder to finish 2/2 on the day. He made both of his extra point attempts and four of his five kickoffs went out of the end zone for touchbacks.

Moving on to the GOAT in Johnny Townsend, it was just another day at the office. Punting only four times in the game, Townsend averaged 49.5 yards per punt while pinning South Carolina inside their own 20-yard line just once. His longest punt was 59 yards and it was the only one to travel over 50 yards.

In the return game, Antonio Callaway did run a punt back for a touchdown. However, it was called back due to a holding penalty. The negated return aside, Callaway still had a decent day returning punts as he netted 100 yards on four returns. On kickoff returns, Brandon Powell returned the lone South Carolina kickoff of the game for 16 yards.

Final Takeaway
The now 23rd ranked Gators finish at 5-1 in the SEC East with this victory and are now one win (or a Tennessee loss) away from an SEC East title. It is by no means going to be easy though as the Gators' next opponent is the No. 16 LSU Tigers (6-3, 4-2 SEC).

After the fiasco that ensued with Hurricane Matthew in October, the Gators are playing this game in Baton Rouge. I could go on forever about how unfair all of this is, but it is what it is. If Florida wins, there will be no need to complain. They will be on their way to Atlanta and likely to a death sentence against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, 7-0 SEC).

Focusing on this weekend's matchup though, here's the Gator injury report for this weekend.
Luke Del Rio, Jarrad Davis, David Sharpe, Mark Herndon, and C.J. Worton are all out against LSU. Cam Dillard remains out for the season, and now Marcus Maye joins him as well.

Kickoff for the LSU game is at 1 p.m. It can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. After how LSU has looked these past few games and judging how Florida's offense is still pretty much inept, I am picking the Tigers to win this one.

If this were in The Swamp I'd reconsider, but Florida has not won in Death Valley since 2009. Also, LSU boasts a three-game winning streak over the Orange and Blue.

As for South Carolina, they continue their quest for bowl eligibility. They will most likely achieve it as they travel back to Columbia to face the West Carolina Catamounts (2-8) on Senior Day.

It will be a feel-good win for Muschamp and company, as the No. 3 Clemson Tigers (9-1) will ravage them on the road in the following week. Kickoff for this game is at 4 p.m. and it can be seen on the SEC Network.



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