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South Carolina vs. Florida report card: The good, the bad, and the weird

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The Gamecocks and Gators got together for some performance art before the Gamecocks decided to go ahead and win the game.

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Passing game: Jake Bentley played his worst game of the season by far, even though he managed to throw for 249 yards on 19-of-29 passing. He’s struggled with overthrows and other accuracy issues for much of the year, but he tossed three terrible interceptions against the Gators (although one of them did appear to be on the intended receiver for stopping his route). The Gamecocks did not have a receiving touchdown, but the ball was well-distributed: OrTre Smith and Hayden Hurst led South Carolina with five receptions each for 60 and 59 yards, respectively; Bryan Edwards had three catches for 48 yards; A.J. Turner had three for 36; and Shi Smith made a great juggling catch for 26 yards. Hurst also had a highlight-worthy one-handed grab. If I were just evaluating quarterback play, the grade would be lower, but the receiving corps really showed up against Florida despite those awful picks. GRADE: B

Passing defense: The Gamecocks needed to generate a pass rush and they did, tipping a handful of passes, collecting four sacks with seven tackles for loss, and tallying nine quarterback hurries. There were also some key pass breakups made downfield by Steven Montac and Jarmarcus King, who has quietly been playing like one of the best defensive backs on the roster in recent weeks. Jamyest Williams capped it all off with a game-sealing interception. However, once Florida starter Malik Zaire departed the game with an injury, Feleipe Franks had more success slinging the ball around in spite of South Carolina’s pressure. In particular, there were two appalling fourth-down conversions that went for big gains, and the defense gave up more explosive plays than we’ve been used to seeing. Given that Florida’s offense is not exactly a strength, this type of outing might have been expected. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with just how uncomfortable the Gamecocks made the Gators. GRADE: B+

Rushing offense: A.J. Turner, hello. Mon Denson, good to see you. The Gamecocks’ on again, off again relationship with the run game was very much on against the Gators, as South Carolina rolled up 220 rushing yards. Turner supplied most of them with 136 on 22 carries and generally just looked like a man who would not be stopped. Denson, who has been getting more snaps over the past few weeks, gained 61 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns. Bentley also notched two rushing scores, despite his otherwise rough day at the office. This was the most complete, all-around effort the Gamecocks have put forth on the ground this season. GRADE: A+

Rushing defense: Although Florida scored two rushing touchdowns, the Gators mustered just 78 yards on the ground and could never get it going to take some pressure off their quarterbacks. If South Carolina’s defensive line wasn’t in the backfield, it was meeting the Gators’ running backs at or near the line of scrimmage. There’s not much else to add here because it just wasn’t a factor. GRADE: A

Special teams: The Gamecocks pounced on a muffed punt, but also had one of their own. Parker White missed a 47-yard field goal that would’ve given South Carolina some more breathing room, and I continue to be mystified at how many opportunities the staff has given him at that distance. The Gamecocks have left a ton of points on the field this year, and for no apparent reason other than they seem to enjoy doing it. (I will say that White’s touchback game is very strong.) Chris Lammons had a decent punt return at one point, but overall, this unit was just so-so. GRADE: C

Coaching: While South Carolina did have some of its usual frustratingly conservative moments, overall I thought offensive coordinator Kurt Roper called a good game. The execution was clearly the problem Saturday, as Bentley played well in spurts but never quite got his head on straight. I’m only not giving this an A because of some of the strange lapses we saw on defense, as well as the continued decision to try field goals the Gamecocks obviously can’t make. GRADE: B+

Weirdness: I had to add this category because any time you have four turnovers in about a minute or so of game time, you know you’re seeing something special. I figured this matchup would get ugly or sloppy, but I didn’t expect the three-ring circus that broke out. GRADE: A+