Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The Gators had to know that after the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game the past three weeks, their offense at home today would be run-first, run-second, throw-third. But if they did, it didn't show in the first half: Carolina dominated Florida along the line-of-scrimmage in the first 30 minutes, eventually rolling up 215 rushing yards to the Gators' 142. Connor Shaw completed only 6 passes for only 81 yards, but picked up 88 on the ground and ran for two first-half scores that would be all the Gamecock defense -- and their four sacks -- would need.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: More than anything, their burst of physical running in the second quarter that gave the Gamecocks both their touchdowns, allowed them to play with the lead throughout the second half, and forced the Gators just that far out of their ground-based offensive comfort zone.
But 17 points shouldn't really be enough to win an SEC game, should it? Kudos are in order for the Gamecock defense, which hounded John Brantley in the pocket, kept the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps largely under wraps, and gave the Gators nothing in the downfield passing game. (We're not sure if any individual SEC unit has improved as much from 2010 to 2011 as the Carolina secondary, so eminently flammable in 2010 but one of the league's better defensive backfields in 2011. Of course, facing a steady diet of SEC quarterbacks tends to make any secondary look good.) But it's become obvious that the Gators' offensive troubles -- which many pinned on Brantley's absence or poor health in their four-game losing streak -- go much deeper than the quarterback position.
Brantley may not be 100 percent, but he wasn't all that far off in Columbia, and he still finished the day a mediocre 13-of-21 for just 119 yards and no touchdowns, And between his line's struggles in pass protection, his receiver's occasional butterfingers, and the continued boom-or-bust nature of the Gators' less-than-physical rushing game, he didn't get a lot of help. End result for the Gator attack: just 261 total offensive yards, just 12 points -- the Gators' fifth time at 20 points or fewer in six games -- and a final SEC record of 3-5, the program's first losing league record since 1979. Dear Charlie Weis: year 2 had better be a lot better if you'd like to get out of Gainesville alive.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw basically made one important play all game in the passing department, but it was a biggie: facing first-and-15 at his own 37 immediately following a fourth-quarter Gator touchdown that cut the Carolina lead to two, Shaw threw deep to Ace Sanders for 46 yards. That was more than half of Shaw's passing total for the day, but more important it set up the Gamecocks for a short field goal and a 17-12 lead. The way the Gator offense had sputtered, asking them to score a second touchdown in the space of a quarter was always going to be too much.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: A shot at the SEC East. If Georgia loses today to Auburn or next week to Kentucky (OK, if they lose today to Auburn), Carolina will go to Atlanta for the second time in two years.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: a fifth SEC game for the first time in 32 years. Last week's win against Vanderbilt ensured the Gators won't miss a bowl game, but there's no way to color Will Muschamp's first season at the Gator helm as anything other than a disappointment now.