Florida’s already injury-depleted defense lost one more veteran Saturday.
Fifth-year senior safety Marcus Maye broke his arm during the first quarter of No. 22 Florida’s 20-7 win over South Carolina, ending his season.
“I just feel horrible,” UF coach Jim McElwain said after the game, “but he’s done so much.”
Maye will finish the season with 50 tackles — currently third on the team — as well as an interception and six pass breakups.
He came back for a fifth season to build up his résumé for the NFL Draft despite having a solid 2015 season (82 tackles, two interceptions, six pass breakups and five forced fumbles).
Heading into this week, most mock drafts had Maye projected to be selected in the first or second round.
“I mean his draft stock looking down the road has risen drastically because of how he’s played,” McElwain said. “So this won’t have any bearing on it.”
Defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. and offensive linemen Tyler Jordan and David Sharpe also sustained injuries during the game, and five starters — linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis, defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, center Cam Dillard and quarterback Luke Del Rio — did not dress for the game.
FRESHMEN STEP UP
With Anzalone out for the year and Davis out for the foreseeable future, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins turned to true freshman David Reese and redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson to lead the defense.
Reese led Florida with 10 tackles and showed quick instincts in his pursuit of the ball Saturday. He was also responsible for calling plays and audibles for the defense.
“David did a great job,” defensive lineman Joey Ivie said. “He communicated. Personally, all the calls that we got [Saturday] were just as easy to get as Alex and JD being in there.”
Johnson finished with seven tackles and had one tackle for loss.
“Not one time did they lose their eyes,” McElwain said. “They knew exactly what they were supposed to do, and they executed it.”
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Florida finished the season undefeated at home for the first time since 2012. In the five home wins, the Gators outscored opponents 161-35. The seven points per game allowed at home was Florida’s lowest since the 1964 season, when it surrendered 32 points in five home games (6.4 average) and 98 points total on the season.
THIS AND THAT
▪ UF’s offense has scored on its opening drive twice this season — Saturday against South Carolina and Sept. 24 against Tennessee. Austin Appleby was the starting quarterback in both of those games.
▪ After averaging just 3.5 yards per punt return this season, sophomore and former Booker T. Washington standout Antonio Callaway returned four punts for 100 yards Saturday, including two that went for at least 30 yards. Late in the second quarter, he had a return for a touchdown called back because of a holding penalty.
▪ Wide receiver Chris Thompson was ejected in the second quarter for targeting.