COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Florida is mired in its worst losing streak since its 0-10-1 season in 1979, but despite another disheartening defeat — its fifth-in a row — the mood following UF’s 19-14 loss to then-No. 10 South Carolina on Saturday night was surprisingly optimistic.
The Gators — decimated by injuries and with a coaching staff fighting all sorts of swirling negativity — rallied together and nearly pulled off a major upset on the road.
Florida (4-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) isn’t resigned to silver linings; it’s simply embracing them.
“They fought their butts off, and they continue to fight and play hard. Nobody has ever questioned their efforts,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I’m just extremely proud of them and of the resolve and the fight and coming together like Florida Gators do. Extremely proud of them. ... The bottom line is winning, and we didn’t do it. We did not get the job done, so that’s on me. We’ll go back and continue to work hard and get these last two. I’m looking forward to that.”
A resilient team down to its third-string quarterback and a makeshift and reshuffled offensive line rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns against one of the top front-sevens in college football.
UF’s defense — much-maligned in recent weeks — frustrated USC’s duel-threat quarterback Connor Shaw, while limiting star tailback Mike Davis to a season-low 54 yards on 13 carries.
The Gators displayed toughness, grit and effort.
Despite so many odds, they didn’t quit.
“That was the intensity of the whole week. We were gonna run the ball, play smash-mouth football, play Florida football,” left tackle Max Garcia said. “We didn’t come out with a win, but I think we showed people that we’re physical, we’re still physical, we’re still Florida.”
Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, but the team’s “woe-is-me” attitude Muschamp criticized last week wasn’t present. Florida played with an edge.
“We always fight and we kept fighting,” said defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. “We played for 60 minutes, tough football. We just did all we could. We gave it our all and we lost. They came up with the ‘W.’ But at the end of the day, I’m proud of my team. … Everybody’s with each other because we’re all we got. We’re just gonna keep fighting.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Morhinweg, who took his first-career snaps Saturday night, was rarely asked to do much of anything as offensive coordinator Brent Pease dialed up his best gameplan all season.
Florida confused South Carolina with a conservative, but well-designed rushing attack full of misdirection, quick snaps, unbalanced lines and lots of Wild-Gator snaps.