Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 17-12 loss at the hands of South Carolina. Included is the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, Surprising, Disappointing and much more.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER-OF-THE-GAME After a week on the sidelines, Chris Rainey is back in the spotlight. The fifth-year senior achieved his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, carrying the ball 17 times for a total of 132 yards. If Rainey could look past the sting of the loss, he had to feel good about going for triple digits on an SEC defense after a very rough October for the Florida offense.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER-OF-THE-GAME De'Ante Saunders came up with the lone turnover for the UF defense. The turnover looked like it was going to provide a spark for the Gator offense, as Rainey and Jeff Demps carried the offense from midfield to the red zone. There were points off of the turnover, but unfortunately, they came from a field goal.
UNSUNG HERO-OF-THE-GAME Sophomore safety Matt Elam continues to play smart football as the leader of a young secondary. There were not many bright spots in an ugly game like the one on Saturday, but UF's pass defense had an overall solid performance. Elam finished the day with seven tackles, including one for a loss.
STAT LINE-OF-THE-GAME All anyone needs to know about this game is that Florida kicked two field goals that were less than 25 yards (21, 24). Sturgis made both chip shots, but the potential eight points left on the field could have changed the outcome of the game. In the Gators five losses, they are a pathetic 1-for-10 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
ON THE RISE While Elam continues to impress, his fellow safety Josh Evans deserves recognition as well for his 11 tackles. With Shaw and Saunders both doing well, the Gators might further embrace the nickel formation.
A.C. Leonard's role continues to increase, ever so slightly. The tight end that has battled injury has gone back-to-back games with a reception, catching two passes for 11 yards.
ON THE BUBBLE It's no longer feasible to single them out one at a time. The truth is, the Florida offensive line as a unit is on the bubble, but unfortunately it is John Brantley who suffers the collateral damage. As the line repeatedly shows itself unable to correct it's season-long problem of pass protection, Brantley's lack of mobility becomes an increased liability. Freshman Jacoby Brissett's ability to scramble led to Florida's only touchdown, making it even more difficult to watch Brantley constantly hurried and sacked. Brantley is the team's best passer, but with the play of the offensive line, he rarely gets to show it.
SURPRISING Florida successfully made South Carolina one-dimensional on offense. Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw threw only 12 passes on the day (6-of-12 for 81 yards) and All-American receiver Alshon Jeffery was limited to two receptions for only 17 yards.
DISAPPOINTING When a pass game guru like Steve Spurrier is willing to rely on the run, it's a sign of problems on the defense. Despite having already faced Georgia's Aaron Murray and LSU's Jordan Jefferson, the Florida defense looked lost trying to defend a mobile quarterback. Shaw ran the ball 16 times for 88 yards. The Gamecocks eclipsed the 200-yard mark on the ground, with running back Brandon Miles carrying the ball 29 times for 120 yards.
PLAY-OF-THE-GAME Rainey looked fully healthy when he turned on the jets for his 47-yard run in the fourth quarter. On the run, he adjusted his angle of approach multiple times trying his best to sneak into the end zone. Fortunately for Rainey, his efforts did not go to waste and the run set up a touchdown instead of a third field goal.
THE GOOD NEWS Florida still has a chance at bowl eligibility, needing only one more win. The Gators final two regular season contests are at home, where they are 4-1 this season.
THE BAD NEWS The issues causing Florida lose do not seem to change. Obvious problems such as lack of pass protection, absence of a power run game and the inability to stop the run simply do not get corrected on this team. Players and coaches might see improvement in practice, but it does not show up on Saturdays.
A LOOK AHEAD The competition gets a little easier for Florida as FCS (formerly I-AA) team Furman comes to The Swamp. The Paladins are 6-4 and will be trying to bounce back from a 41-34 loss to Elon. A win over Furman would make the Gators bowl eligible.