Rapid Reaction: Florida offense continues hot start, stops overmatched Gamecocks
Kyle Pitts started the season with 6 touchdowns in 6 quarters of football, and as long as Florida kept control of the ball Saturday, the Gators rolled over the Gamecocks.
The final score, 38-24, was closer than the game.
With another dazzling offensive showing to move to 2-0, the Heisman Trophy campaigns for Florida stars QB Kyle Trask and Pitts are gaining steam. One thing’s for sure, it brought back memories to the Rex Grossman-Jabar Gaffney days from two decades ago.
Trask again engineered a high-octane offense, and was 21-for-29 passing for 268 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also connected with 9 different receivers, and 5 of them had at least 2 catches. His only blemishes were a first-half fumble, and a 4th-quarter interception on 3rd down, a diving one-handed pick by Israel Mukuamu.
While Pitts was the bread-and-butter of the Florida offense, Kadarius Toney helped blow the game wide open in the 3rd quarter with a 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run to give the Gators a 4-score lead. Toney broke 3 tackles up the middle and ran through a pack of Gamecocks.
For South Carolina fans, this game had a striking resemblance to Tennessee last week as the Gamecocks got off to a hot start on offense early, but sputtered as the game went on. This time, it was dropped passed that plagued the receivers, who had at least 5 drops by halftime. (Shi Smith later dropped a sure touchdown catch in the final minute.) The running game was an upgrade from last week as Kevin Harris showed off his punishing style to gain extra yards after contact. Harris had 72 yards and a TD by halftime and finished with 100 yards.
Aside from a Trask first-half fumble, the Gators largely dominated. With 14 first downs in the first half, and only 3 3rd-down attempts, the Gators were on cruise control. The momentum-changing play came with 14:02 left in the half when Trask was hit by Tonka Hemingway, and Ernest Jones recovered near midfield. It was the first turnover for the Gamecocks defense since the Texas A&M game last season. On the ensuing drive, the Gamecocks scored on a Collin Hill 4-yard pass to Smith.
However, the game slipped away from the Gamecocks at the start of the second half highlighted by a rough sequence when they were flagged for a hold, a false start and then Deshaun Fenwick fumbled a pitch from Hill with 9:23 in the 3rd quarter. For Florida, it was a chance to get back on track as Trask threw another touchdown pass. That meant that Florida scored on 14 of its first 18 drives in 2020.
Early in the game, the Gamecocks had to wonder if this would be just like Tennessee. They scored on a 12-play, 75-yard drive largely behind Harris as they only faced one third down in the drive. Hill found more receivers on the first drive (3) than he did all game against Tennessee (2). Last week Tennessee answered the Gamecocks opening touchdown drive with three scoring drives and built a 21-7 lead.
After a record-setting offensive showing last week at Ole Miss, Florida went back to the well, and Trask was perfect to start the game, and only had 3 incomplete passes by halftime. South Carolina brought plenty of pressure, but rarely disrupted the veteran QB.
On the second Florida scoring drive, Trask found Trent Whittemore over double coverage for a first down, and then hit Pitts on the next play for his fifth touchdown in two games, a 13-yarder late in the first quarter.
Dan Mullen in his bag pic.twitter.com/9QgWc1XeuE
— Marc Whiteman (@MarcWYFFNews4) October 3, 2020
South Carolina did force a field goal in the first half after Florida converted a 3rd and 14 and 2nd and 13, the defense caused Trask to float a pass too high for Pitts. But on the next offensive drive, the Gamecocks went 3-and-out in 19 seconds.
For the Florida defense, it was a marked improvement from last week’s defensive struggle at Ole Miss when it allowed 13.4 yards per pass attempt. Thanks in part to the South Carolina dropped passes, by halftime, Florida allowed just 3.6 yards per attempt.