COLUMBIA, S.C. — Somehow, Florida still had a chance. After losing quarterback Malik Zaire mid-game to a knee injury. After twice trailing by 15. After letting South Carolina into the end zone four times, the Gators had the ball, down by eight with 3:19 left. Seven plays later, redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks threw an interception to cement a 28-20 loss.
With a five-game losing streak, and two games left, the Gators (3-6, 3-5 SEC) all but forfeited their chance at a bowl game.
"Had a chance at the end of the game," said interim coach Randy Shannon, whose team rehearsed two-minute drills and two-point conversations in practice this past week. "Just couldn’t get it done."
The Gators did a few things right, converting in the red zone and picking off Jake Bentley three times. Other than that, the Gators let too many opportunities slip by and gave a few to the Gamecocks. South Carolina even gained 20 yards on Bentley’s first interception. UF freshman C.J. Henderson snagged the pass, but 2 yards from a tying touchdown and his third pick six of the season, Henderson fumbled into the end zone and South Carolina returned the fumble 24 yards.
Florida’s secondary kept the rest of the team from bottoming out. At UF’s 1, Bentley threw an interception that safety Chauncey Gardner nearly returned for a touchdown before a shoestring tackle ended his dash at 46 yards.
"If we just capitalized on those little things, I feel like we’d come out with a victory," middle linebacker David Reese said.
But the Gators gave up more than 200 yards rushing in a third consecutive game. As UF linebackers whiffed, South Carolina stacked six runs of 15 yards or more.
Meanwhile, UF’s offense looked stagnant as ever. Punter Johnny Townsend totaled 45 more yards than the Gators offense could muster (301). Franks finished 10-of-25 for 174 yards and an interception after Zaire’s left knee gave out.