A.J. Turner rushed for over 100 yards and Mon Denson scored two touchdowns as South Carolina clinched at least a tie for second place in the SEC East with a 28-20 win against Florida.
The Gamecocks used a balanced effort on offense to gash the struggling Gators defense. Florida dropped to 3-6 after losing its fifth straight game.
South Carolina (7-3, 5-3) seemed to have things under control in the third quarter when quarterback Jake Bentley rushed for his second touchdown of the game – a 7-yarder on a zone-read play to give the Gamecocks a 28-13 lead.
But Florida, behind Feleipe Franks, who replaced injured starting quarterback Malik Zaire, rallied the Gators in the fourth quarter with a 62-yard heave to Moral Stephens to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Mark Thompson to make the score 28-20.
The Gators’ defense, which gave up over 450 yards, held South Carolina to a three-and-out and got the ball back at their 21 with 3:19 remaining. Franks converted a 4th-and-11 to Brandon Powell but was intercepted by Jamyest Williams to effectively end the game.
South Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind a power running game that has struggled to find success this season. Bentley led a seven-play, 74-yard drive with a 26-yard pass to Shi Smith and a 23-yard pass to Hayden Hurst to get the ball in Gators territory. From there, Turner busted off a 27-yard run to give the Gamecocks a first-and-goal and set up a 4-yard run from Bentley to make the score 7-0.
Florida had a chance to tie when C.J. Henderson intercepted a Bentley pass at the South Carolina 25 and looked to be headed to the end zone before he fumbled at the 1. Turner recovered the fumble and returned it 24 yards to give South Carolina another first down.
After a couple more turnovers, South Carolina went back on the attack with a 17-yard run by Turner and a 23-yard pass from Bentley to OnTre Smith to get the ball to the Florida 33. Two plays later Denson busted through the middle of the defense and scored on a 24-yard run to make the score 14-0.
Denson finished with a season-high 61 yards on 13 carries, a nice complement to Turner, who had 136 yards on 22 attempts. South Carolina had good run-pass balance, other than Bentley (19-for-29, 249 yards) throwing three interceptions.
Florida settled down in the second quarter and got two field goals from Eddy Pineiro, but lost Zaire to an apparent leg injury.
However, while the Gators were getting field goals, South Carolina was getting to the end zone and did it again in the second quarter on Denson’s 12-yard run to a cap an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
With Franks guiding the offense now, the Gators got their passing game going. Franks completed a 17-yarder to Powell and a 37-yard bomb to Josh Hammond to set up an 18-yard touchdown run from Lamical Perine to make the score 21-13 at the half.
Franks finished 10-for-25 for 174 yards and the one interception that sealed the outcome.
South Carolina has non-conference games left against Wofford and Clemson. The Gamecocks will take second in the East outright unless Kentucky gets by Vanderbilt (late afternoon game Saturday) and at Georgia next week.