COLUMBIA, S.C. — As sophomore Dominique Easley teetered off the field, his left leg was limp, his shoulders hunched, his head down.
It was late in the second quarter of Saturday's 17-12 loss, and Easley had just been driven into the ground. As he hobbled toward the locker room, trainers supporting the 282-pound defensive tackle, Easley did not watch South Carolina finish its drive. He didn't need to.
With Easley on the field, the Gamecocks drove the ball into the heart of the Gators defense. With him out, they did more, capping an 11-play, 46-yard drive with a goal-line sneak into the end zone by Connor Shaw.
The quarterback's carry gave South Carolina a 14-3 edge. It was the 10th straight run by the Gamecocks. On their previous drive, they pounded the ball on nine of 11 plays, also capped by Shaw's rushing score.
In all, the Gamecock gained 215 yards on 52 runs. Brandon Wilds led the attack, carrying the ball 29 times for 120 yards. Shaw scrambled for 88 yards on 16 carries. He threw the ball just 13 times.
"We got tired," coach Will Muschamp said. "The second quarter wore on there in the run game, and that's really where they gained most of their yards."
South Carolina entered the game ranked third in the SEC at 188.3 rushing yards per game. On paper, the Gators' run defense should have matched up. Florida was allowing 123.3 yards on the ground per game, but that number was skewed with strong performances against bottom dwellers such as Florida Atlantic and UAB.
During UF's four-game losing streak in October, it allowed an average of 201 yards.
"It's frustrating," linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. "One of the main things we want to do is stop the run. When we don't, they're able to be effective, take shots, just keep the clock running."
Jenkins said Florida did not recognize some of South Carolina's packages, such as when it ran it with no one lined up at running back. Coaches drew South Carolina's formations on a blackboard at halftime, showing players how to attack.
Easley returned in the second half, rejuvenated, as did Florida's run defense, which held South Carolina to just 55 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
Still, the Gators defense could not get off the field at a critical time. Down by five with 5:34 left, Florida stopped Wilds twice.
But on third and 2, Easley fell forward. Offside.
After the flag, he rolled over, his hands gripping his face mask, his head tilted up, looking to the sky.