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Florida Gators QB John Brantley take a beating, earns respect

John Brantley is sacked three times, after which teammate Dan Wenger says, “John’s tough. I can’t be more proud of him.”

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John Brantley is sacked three times, after which teammate Dan Wenger says, “John’s tough. I can’t be more proud of him.”

GAINESVILLE — As he walked off the field after being sacked on the final play of the game, Florida QB John Brantley had a slight limp and the look of a player who had been battered and bruised all day.

The stats will tell you Brantley was sacked just three times Saturday, but he was hurried, harassed and hit often. He finished 13-of-21 for 119 yards and no interceptions but no touchdowns.

It is, his teammates said, a testament to the leader he has become despite the team's record.

"John's tough," OL Dan Wenger said. "I can't be more proud of him. He's our leader out there. I thought he did a great job with how he led and how tough he was.

"I just wish I would have played better for him."

The Gators made some adjustments to their offensive line, moving Wenger to center and Jonotthan Harrison to left guard for one possession before Harrison left the game "banged up," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

And although he defended the line's protection of Brantley leading into Saturday's game, Muschamp acknowledged there's work to be done.

"Yeah, he took some hits," Muschamp said of Brantley. "We've got to do a better job protecting. There's no question."

BITTERSWEET ENDING: If you happened to catch South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's postgame excitement Saturday afternoon, you should know he wasn't just giddy because he had just beaten his alma mater.

South Carolina's victory over Florida gave it an undefeated SEC East season for the first time in school history. Spurrier said the accomplishment is even more impressive because the Gamecocks persevered after the dismissal of QB Stephen Garcia and the loss of star RB Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury last month.

"It's interesting," said Spurrier, whose only conference losses came to Auburn and Arkansas. "Not many of you would say we'd be 6-2 in the conference without Marcus or with a quarterback who's never played, Connor Shaw, or without (OT) Kyle Nunn, who we lost the second week with a back injury. But our defense stayed pretty healthy throughout. Most of our veteran guys are on defense.

"This was a good win for us. I'm happy with this one. It's one of the best I've ever had; not because it's my old school, but because it's six wins in the conference and beating those three schools that have dominated South Carolina before '05 (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee)."

But the undefeated record might not be enough to send the Gamecocks to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Georgia leads the East after its victory over Auburn on Saturday afternoon. If Georgia defeats Kentucky next week, it will play in Atlanta.

ANOTHER BIG DAY: Senior RB Chris Rainey played with a nagging injury.

He missed last week's game against Vanderbilt with an ankle injury but finished Saturday with 17 carries for 132 yards — his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season.

"I can't run 100 percent," he said. "But I did the best I can."

Florida Gators QB John Brantley take a beating, earns respect 11/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 12, 2011 7:35pm]
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