Rapid Reaction: Kyle Trask, late defensive turnover help Florida rally for victory at South Carolina
It took awhile for Kyle Trask to get a grip on the ball in wet and sloppy conditions at South Carolina, but the Florida quarterback found his footing to lead the Gators to a late come-from-behind victory Saturday.
Trask threw 3 TDs in the 4th quarter as Florida pulled away for a 38-27 victory. He finished with a career-high 4 TD passes.
Trask found WR Freddie Swain for a diving 25-yard go-ahead touchdown catch with 9:54 remaining after he converted a 4th-and-3 play with a completion to TE Kyle Pitts. Swain’s TD gave Florida its first lead. That capped a 52-yard scoring drive over 7 plays as Florida captured the field position edge after the Gamecocks couldn’t move the offense much away from their own goal line.
On the ensuing drive, the Gators’ defense then forced a sack by Zachary Carter that caused a fumble by QB Ryan Hilinski at his 30-yard line. The Gators punched it in 4 plays later after a penalty wiped out a South Carolina interception as Trask connected with Pitts for a 5-yard score. In a game filled with questionable and controversial penalties and non-calls on both sides, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp was irate about the officials seemingly missing pass interference call on the Pitts touchdown. A Florida receiver appeared to block the South Carolina defender assigned to Pitts.
Will Muschamp is wet and angry, and I don’t blame him. pic.twitter.com/4DNuAwk8rK
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) October 19, 2019
On Florida’s next drive, Trask hit Trevon Grimes to account on a 5-yard TD to account for the Gators’ final points.
The big questions entering the game were could South Carolina make it 2 consecutive upset wins over top 10 teams following its win over Georgia, and could Florida rebound after the emotional loss at LSU.
Through 3 quarters, it was an even game as the teams exchanged touchdowns and field goals, and the total yards were Gators 263, Gamecocks 245.
Muschamp tried to motivate his team in practice this week when he wore a T-shirt with a hand-written message that read, “I gave up 367 rushing yards to Florida,” a reference to last year’s game when South Carolina blew a big lead and lost. Florida only had 49 rushing yards by halftime, but the Gators also appeared to choose a passing attack as the early game plan.
South Carolina appeared to grab the momentum early in the 2nd half when it got a Trask interception and then RB Tavien Feaster scored on a 21-yard touchdown where he kept his balance inside the 10-yard line to score. It was an efficient 3-play drive. Florida coach Dan Mullen repeatedly appeared frustrated with Trask as they met on the sideline after incomplete 3rd-down passes and that interception.
But Florida didn’t waste any time on the ensuing drive as Dameon Pierce went 75 yards for a touchdown. Florida now has 3 rushing touchdowns of at least 75 yards, the most in FBS this season, per ESPN Stats & Info. It’s also the most in a single season in Florida’s school history. The Gators had 3 rushing touchdowns of 75+ yards in the 10 preceding seasons combined (2009-18).
However, Gamecocks faithful believed there were 2 penalties on that play, a false start and a holding call. Neither was called against the Gators.
— James (@GamecockSplash) October 19, 2019
Both teams dealt with injuries to key players.
Florida didn’t have pass rushers Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, who were game-time decisions, as they’ve battled ankle injuries for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, South Carolina lost RB Rico Dowdle early in the game. He didn’t return and had an ice pack on his right knee on the sideline. The Gators also had Adam Shuler shaken up late in the third quarter. He’s the best defensive lineman with Zuniga and Greenard out.
In the first half, the offenses were as sloppy as the weather. By halftime, the quarterbacks combined to go 13-of-28 passing.
Both quarterbacks missed open receivers and dealt with dropped passes. On South Carolina’s opening scoring drive, a botched pitch from Hilinski to Feaster resulted in a near-fumble. But it was wiped out by a second Florida offsides penalty on that drive.
The Gamecocks recovered and eventually scored on a Mon Denson run around the right side. That made the Gamecocks the first Florida opponent to score a touchdown on its opening possession this season. It was a surprise since the Gators entered day leading nation in red-zone defense. The drive was highlighted by a flea flicker pass to WR Bryan Edwards down the middle.
After a field goal from each team, Florida tied the game at 10 with 10:08 left in the first half when Trask hit Jacob Copeland for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Copeland beat Jammie Robinson and the rest of the Gamecocks couldn’t recover. Copeland was a key player in the first half with the TD catch, and another catch of 32 yards. His career-long entering Saturday was 21 yards.