Fry’s career night helps Gamecocks squeak past Gators, keep SEC East title hopes alive

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QB Connor Shaw celebrates as time expires.

This was not a pretty game. It wasn’t even a decent game. It was kind of a mess, to be honest, but No. 10 South Carolina beat Florida 19-14 in their final conference game of the season and kept themselves in the race for the SEC championship.

Before this game even started, Auburn pulled off a crazy win over Georgia that knocked the Dawgs out of contention for the title game, which means USC and Mizzou are the only two teams who the East can send to Atlanta. If the Tigers lose one of their remaining conference games, then the Cocks will be headed to the conference championship game. Otherwise, Missouri will go, and Carolina will possibly have a shot at a BCS bowl.

Anyway, back to the recap of tonight’s game. The first half was…less than impressive for the home team, with the Gamecocks having to settle for a field goal on their opening drive, then allowing the Gators to march down the field and Kelvin Taylor to run 20 yards the end zone for a 7-3 lead. The second quarter went the same way – South Carolina tacked on another field goal and Taylor went 29 yards to the house again, putting UF up 14-6. USC attempted to score once more before the half, but Elliott Fry’s kick was just a little off. Down by eight points going into the locker room was by no means an insurmountable deficit, except the Cocks didn’t look very crisp offensively and the defense appeared to take a blow when Jadeveon Clowney and Gerald Dixon were both injured (Clowney later returned to the game).

Fortunately, things went better in the second half, mainly because the Gators didn’t score anymore and Carolina did. The Gamecocks finally found the end zone themselves when Connor Shaw hit Bruuuuuuuuuce Ellington with a 32-yard touchdown pass to pull themselves within one point. Florida tried to answer with a field goal of their own, but the kick was no good.

The fourth quarter got a little tense, but Fry came through and connected on both of his field goal attempts, giving the lead back to the guys in garnet. Shon Carson also raced for 58 yards on one play, the longest run of his career and the most yards the Gators had given up on one play all season. Busta Anderson also made a crazy awesome catch before Fry’s third field goal of the night. The home team was also robbed of a TD during the fourth quarter, and three of UF’s possessions ended in a turnover on downs (after a failed fake punt), a punt, and a pick by Jimmy Legree that effectively sealed the victory for South Carolina.

With the win, the Cocks have now set a new school record with 16 straight wins at home. Depending on who you ask, that’s the longest current home winning streak in the country. Shaw is now 15-0 at Williams-Brice and also ties Todd Ellis’ school record for career wins with 24.

Both teams had 15 first downs, but USC outgained the Gators in total yardage, 377-307. Florida turned the ball over once, while the Gamecocks didn’t do so at all, but the Gators did have possession for just over half of the game.

Shaw finished the night 14-of-28 for 213 yards and a touchdown, while UF QB Skylar Mornhinweg, a freshman making his first-ever start, went 10-of-13 for 107 yards and an interception. Carson led the Cocks in rushing with 13 carries for 102 yards and Anderson led them in receiving with three catches for 69 yards. Taylor had 96 yards and two TDs on 21 carries and Mack Brown had one reception for 28 yards to lead the Gators. Fry’s four field goals were a career high both in college and in his entire life, he said after the game.

USC finishes 6-2 in the SEC for the third straight year. After the game, Steve Spurrier said the coaches who have been with the team over that period of time received game balls. South Carolina improves to 8-2 overall, while Florida drops to 4-6 overall and 3-5 in conference play. They’ll have to win their remaining two games to become bowl eligible, which seems unlikely, considering that one of those games is against No. 2 Florida State. Next weekend, the Gamecocks will host Coastal Carolina and the Gators will be at home to play against Georgia Southern.

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