Dan Mullen was a goner at Florida after the embarrassing loss to South Carolina one year ago. Yes, some Florida players were sick for that game, but Florida football rightly and reasonably holds itself to higher standards.
By Matt Zemek
Florida and South Carolina should have been nowhere close to each other last year based on the talent of the two rosters and the preseason expectations attached to each program. Let’s remember that Florida won the SEC East in 2020 and was coming off a fine season in which it defeated Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs. South Carolina, in 2021, was riding into battle under a first-year head coach, Shane Beamer, who was just beginning to learn about coaching in the SEC, and whose South Carolina team was extremely fortunate to have beaten Vanderbilt at home.
Florida, even with some players being sick, should have been better than South Carolina last year. It wasn’t, and the margin was lopsided. The Gators caved. The capitulated. The first key to beating South Carolina is for all the returning UF players who are still on the roster to play with a burning passion to rectify last year’s wrong turn. Here are three other keys for the Gators:
1 – Force Spencer Rattler to throw and beat them down the field
Spencer Rattler plays well and functions well within the South Carolina offense when he can pick his spots on throwing the ball down the field. We have seen, both at Oklahoma and now at South Carolina, that Rattler doesn’t perform well when asked to chuck the ball down the field and throw 30 or more times. Florida, therefore, needs to take away the run and put Rattler in lots of second-and-long and third-and-medium situations. If South Carolina has a lot of 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 2 situations, it will have this game right where it wants it.
2 – Anthony Richardson running
This game could have very wet conditions due to Hurricane Nicole. If so, Anthony Richardson will need to get outside the pocket and make plays. Dropback passing isn’t his main strength. Richardson finding running lanes while defenders struggle to find the right angles in pursuit on a soggy field could be a great formula for Florida in this game.
3 – Special teams
Wet conditions beg for turnovers and game-changing plays. Florida needs to be on the right side of such plays, but it’s more than that: South Carolina used a kick return to beat Texas A&M. Florida knows that South Carolina has a limited offense. Not allowing short fields to the Gamecocks is very much connected to an airtight performance by kick coverage units.