COLUMBIA -- Urban Meyer admitted something Monday that no coach ever wants to do.
He said Florida panicked offensively. He said it got well away from its plan, and it looked that way in a 36-14 rout by South Carolina that gave the Gamecocks the SEC East title.
The Gators, who had 67 yards in three quarters and 226 for the game, had help looking out of sorts.
South Carolina's defense, an incomplete puzzle at times the past month, finally came to play.
"It shows we were prepared," said senior linebacker Josh Dickerson, who hopped on a late fumble that led to a touchdown. "When we have focus, we can do anything."
South Carolina had allowed four of the past five teams to throw for more than 300 yards, and the fifth was a Vanderbilt team that isn't really capable of going downfield.
It had been a long month of answering questions from reporters and trying to answer their own questions about what was going wrong.
Holding Florida, which had run for 431 yards the past two games, to 35 rushing yards was a strong statement to make.
"You want to see them execute and do their assignments," secondary coach Lorenzo Ward said. "We hadn't done that all season, not every play. And we were really close to doing it every play the other night."
The Gators kept the ball for only 19 minutes and 14 seconds, thanks in large part to South Carolina holding Florida to 2 for 14 on third downs.
The Gamecocks came into the game allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 43 percent clip. What it did Saturday at least got them out of last in the category. USC is up to 11th, allowing a 39.9 percent conversion rate.
"Of course that's going to give us confidence," Ward said.
The reality, and defensive head coach Ellis Johnson admitted this
Saturday, is that Florida was a good matchup for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks have been good against the run and lousy against the pass.
Still, the Gators tried to throw a lot of wrinkles at South Carolina -- using all three of their quarterbacks -- and USC was up to the challenge all night.
"Whatever way they run it, the strength of their team has been running the football," Johnson said. "And we've done pretty good against that this year. Our kids are tough, mentally tough, and they can run."
Florida ran the opening kickoff back, but didn't score an offensive touchdown until seven minutes to play in the game. That required a fourth-and-2 conversion with Jordan Reed, Florida's third quarterback option, finding Chris Rainey wide open in the flat.
Johnson said Reed ran onto the field late. The Gamecocks tried to adjust the call, but wound up getting confused -- leaving Rainey open. Johnson took the blame for the breakdown.
"I'm so proud of the kids," Johnson said. "In my mind, I felt like they kept them out of the end zone all night."
Like Kentucky and Arkansas before it, this week's game against Troy is something of a bad match for South Carolina. The Trojans, unlike the Gators, love to "throw it all over the park," as Johnson said.
Troy comes into the game with the 13th-leading passing offense in the country, averaging 296 yards and 41 attempts a game. Quarterback Corey Robinson is the ninth-leading passer in the nation.
"They're really efficient," Ward said. "It'll be a big test, to see how much we've improved. Hopefully it'll pay off like it did last week."
Two things seem to be working. Ward said he likes having the entire secondary in one meeting room. Previously, the cornerbacks and free safeties met in one room and the strong safeties and spurs were in another.
"We all need to be in there together," Ward said. "We're connected, somehow, the five guys on the perimeter. If we all know what each other is going to do, it's going to help us."
Additionally, the three-man safety rotation of Akeem Auguste (free), D.J. Swearinger (strong) and DeVonte Holloman (both) appeared to be more successful. Ward said that would remain the same this week.
Sophomore Alshon Jeffery was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the country's top receiver. Jeffery has 65 catches for 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns. … Marcus Lattimore and Spencer Lanning were honored Monday by the SEC office. Lattimore is this week's co-offensive player of the week, along with Auburn's Cam Newton, and co-freshman of the week, along with Tennessee's Tyler Bray. Lattimore had 212 yards and three touchdowns against the Gators. … Lanning is the special teams player of the week after making all three of his first half field goal tries, from 49, 47 and 41 yards.
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