Friday, December 15, 2017
Colleges

Florida Gators fall short in upset bid

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It wasn't the blowout most had predicted. But in the end, it was yet another loss for Florida on Saturday. And when you're on a five-game losing streak, that's all that really matters.

For 3½ quarters, the Gators defied the expectations as a double-digit underdog and had South Carolina on the ropes at its stadium, where it had won 15 in a row.

But South Carolina outscored Florida 13-0 in the second half, and Elliott Fry hit two fourth-quarter field goals in the 19-14 win in front of 83,853 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 SEC) remained on the heels of Missouri (5-1) in the East. They need the Tigers to lose one of their final two games (at Mississippi or home to Texas A&M) to reach the title game.

Florida (4-6, 3-5), meanwhile, which has lost five in a row for the first time since 1979, needs to beat both Division I-AA Georgia Southern and No. 2 Florida State to merely become bowl eligible.

"I'm extremely proud of our players and the way they continued to fight," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "There's a lot of negativity out there, and these guys pulled together and showed you a little something of what those guys are about."

With quarterback Tyler Murphy out with a sprained right shoulder, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg played his first collegiate game.

Trailing by five, Mornhinweg was intercepted by cornerback Jimmy Legree at the South Carolina 36 with 1:22 left to seal the loss. He finished 10-of-13 for 107 yards, no touchdowns and the one interception.

"I was excited," Mornhinweg said. "I love playing this game. I love being out there, and I was excited and ready to go."

Florida led 14-6 at halftime aided by freshman Kelvin Taylor, who had 13 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

But in the second half, the offense stalled. Florida had 177 yards in the first half but just 53 in the third quarter. With a chance to extend the lead to 17-13, Austin Hardin missed a 32-yard field goal with 3:31 left in the third quarter. He is 4-of-11 this season.

The Gamecocks' Connor Shaw was 14-of-28 for 213 yards, but the Gators held South Carolina to just 69 yards of offense in the third quarter. The defense also did not allow a first-half touchdown for the first time since the season opener against Toledo.

"There's no excuses or anything," Florida sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler said. "We kept fighting. We played for 60 minutes. We played tough football, and we did all we could. We gave it our all, and they came out with the W. But at the end of the day, I'm proud of my team."

The Gators have lost 10 players to season-ending injuries, and after Saturday, Muschamp said their struggles aren't just excuses.

"It's real," Muschamp said, his right fingers wrapped in bandages from hitting a chalkboard during halftime. "You can say what you want to say, and you can write whatever the hell you want to write. But it's real. It's frustrating. It's frustrating for that locker room.

"To hell with me. I worry about the kids. These kids have fought their butts off. There's a lot of negativity out there, and some of our fans need to get a grip. They've got a bunch of kids in that locker room fighting their butt off. They can criticize me all you want. I'm great with that. They're paying me enough money to deal with it. But those kids … fought their butts off, and they've continued to fight and play hard."

     
 
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