The Florida Gators once again imposed their will on the national stage, this time against South Carolina in a 41-11 romping.
This game had a feeling it was going to come down to the fourth quarter, but the Gators sucked the life out of South Carolina with a few early turnovers on defense and special teams. It seemed Florida could do no wrong, as they started four touchdown drives with a short field of 20 yards or less.
Will Muschamp’s team couldn’t be in a better place at the midpoint of the Gators’ season. And from this halftime interview, I think the Gators’ head coach is a bit excited about the adversity this team has overcome.
Many Florida prognosticators (and this insider included) would say the 2012 season has already been a successful campaign, compared to preseason expectations. In that sense, any more top-ten wins from this squad would be a bonus.
Unfortunately, that’s not how college football works- the bar has now been set even higher and the fanbase, better yet the entire country will want more out of Muschamp’s group. Florida’s performances will be scrutinized to the extra point from here on out. Three more top-ten clashes, especially, will be watched closely under the microscope. A No. 2 BCS ranking brings a lot of outside noise.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The SEC East title is up for grabs this Saturday in the biggest Florida-Georgia matchup in four years.
Now that they have solidified their No. 2 ranking in the BCS, this would be the opportune time for the Gators to be caught sleeping and complacent.
The Bulldogs would be happy to take advantage.
Numbers and notes that have caught my eye against South Carolina.
The Gators have yet to give up a touchdown in The Swamp this season.
The Final Score: Florida 44- South Carolina 11
There’s criticism in the blogosphere that this Florida team isn’t built to blow teams out. After this team eviscerated South Carolina, they threw all of that into the trash bin. What’s so special about Saturday’s performance, though, is the Gators did it with a physical brand of football, a kind that perhaps only Nick Saban’s team in Tuscaloosa can replicate.
Sure, the offense did not have an 80-yard drive to wear South Carolina down that we saw against LSU. That just illustrates the different fashions this team can win. Their defense overwhelmed Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore, both All-SEC talents, and took them off the field by the fourth quarter.
Not to mention, contributions from special teams were outstanding. No team in the country has had that much of an impact from their “third unit” than the Gators did in this South Carolina result, showing how much it can contribute to a winning effort.
Fourth Quarter Defense Watch: Three Points vs. USC
Total Fourth Quarter Scoring this Season: Gators 61, Opponents 13
What Florida is doing to teams in the fourth quarter is just silly. The Gators were ahead 37-8 going into the final period, which is usually a golden opportunity for opponents to close the gap with garbage scores.
The team’s backups, though, kept the Gamecocks out of the end zone, and from a statistical standpoint, maintained the Gators’ reputation of a second-half enforcers.
Just a mystifying number to keep track of as the season progresses; besides the 2006 team, no Gator squad in recent history has been this suffocating on the defense end.
Unheralded Players of the Game
– Defensive Back Loucheiz Purifoy has become an impact player on both defense and special teams. He forced two Gamecock fumbles in the first minute of play, single-handedly turning the momentum in the Gators’ favor early on.
Punt returners have to account for where Purifoy is on the field because he’s the team’s biggest hitter on the punt team. He’s not bad in coverage either. A ton of impact talent on the defensive side of the ball, and Puriofy is just tipping the iceberg of his potential.
– Punter Kyle Christy continued to be a force in the Gators’ punting game, booting seven punts with an average of 54 yards. In addition, he had a 62-yard punt, his longest of the season. Christy currently leads the SEC in punt average and was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against South Carolina.
Christy has become a main cog in the Gators’ success on defense and special teams. Who knew a punter could be so valuable?
-Honorable mention shout-out goes to wideouts Quentin Dunbar and Solomon Patton, who may not have become weapons in the passing game that I had hoped, but are finding ways to contribute to Gator wins.
Whether it’s reverses, special teams, and short crosses, these two are showing up on the stat sheet. I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit over-critical.
Click here to listen to Muschamp’s press conference to hear his player awards.
Coming this Thursday…
Will the Gators’ unleash Trey Burton against the Bulldogs in Jacksonville? I have a feeling they will. More analysis on the Georgia matchup will be coming your way Thursday. Thanks for reading.
Mike Shiekman is the Florida Gators Insider and a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report.