No. 9 Florida Gators Hold Off South Carolina on the Road 38-27

By  //  October 20, 2019

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Trask finished 21 of 33 for 200 yards, 4 TDs

ABOVE VIDEO: Florida vs South Carolina Highlights.

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (Florida Gators) – Last year, Florida trailed South Carolina by 17 points at home and rallied for an emotional win that catapulted the Gators to a spectacular finish to their season.

This time, UF got off to a slow start Saturday and trailed USC by three points in the final quarter; on the road and in the rain. Different circumstances, sure, but maybe even more difficult ones.

The end result, though, was the same. Credit the late-game heroics of fourth-year junior quarterback Kyle Trask, who fired three of his four scoring passes in the final period to lead the ninth-ranked Gators to a 38-27 come-from-behind victory over the Gamecocks in a pivotal Southeastern Conference East Division contest at Williams-Brice Stadium.

To appreciate the significance of the outcome, remember it was this South Carolina team that went to Georgia last week and stunned the Bulldogs — unbeaten and ranked No. 3 at the time — in double-overtime.

This week, the Gamecocks were home, confident, with chests poked out, and had a fourth-quarter lead before the Gators, far from at their best early in the game, erupted for 21 unanswered points.

Fourth-year junior quarterback Kyle Trask sets up and fires at the South Carolina defense during Saturday’s SEC game on his way to passing for 200 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter. (Image by Anissa Dimilta/UAA Communications)

“Found a way to win,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “We’ve done that. We find ways to win as a team. We started really sloppy with execution, and not just [that] we didn’t block, but guys running the wrong direction, getting the wrong signal, running the wrong plays. That was kind of disappointing. But we felt we had a good plan and we told the guys to just keep sticking with it.”

In this case, it was the precision passing of Trask, who wasn’t so precise the first three quarters, but got sharp when it mattered most. How ’bout 5-for-6 for 64 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter?

Trask’s three consecutive scoring drives of the period— the first highlighted by a clutch fourth-down conversion pass; the next two aided by fortuitous penalties against the USC defense — ended, respectfully, with a 25-yard strike to wide receiver Freddie Swain for the lead, then touchdowns of five yards each to tight end Kyle Pitts and wideout Tre Grimes to open a 38-20 cushion with just over four minutes remaining.

Trask finished 21 of 33 for 200 yards and the four scores, including a 37-yard strike to redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland in the first half, to go with one interception. He easily out-gunned USC counterpart Ryan Hilinski, who bounced back from a sprain knee that forced him from the Georgia game to complete 17 of 35 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and a lost fumble. Hilinski’s team stuck around thanks to a monster day rushing from tailback Tavien Feaster, who carried 25 times for 175 yards and a score.

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In the end, though, it was the Gators at their best when it mattered most.

“We found our identity and started making plays,” Trask said.

And in doing so kept Florida (7-1, 4-1) pointed in the same (and right) direction: Toward a date with Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 2 in a game that will have a major bearing on the race for the SEC East championship and subsequent berth in the league championship game. South Carolina (3-4, 2-3) represented the first of four consecutive SEC East games for the Gators, who needed the win not only to keep pace in the division but to bounce back from last week’s loss at then-No. 5 and unbeaten LSU.

“We weren’t going to let one loss turn into another,” Florida senior linebacker David Reese said.

The victory took on further meaning four hours later when No. 22 Missouri, unbeaten through two games in league place and alone atop the SEC East, was upset on the road at Vanderbilt, moving the Gators into sole possession of the top spot, a half-game up on Georgia (6-1, 3-1).