defense

South Carolina's Ryan Hilinski, bottom, gets sacked by Florida's Zachary Carter, right, in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Columbia, SC. Florida defeated South Carolina 38-27.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kyle Trask has been asked to do a lot this season.

He came in for an injured Feleipe Franks in the fourth quarter against Kentucky and was asked to come back from down 11 points and win the game. He did that. He was asked to make the third start of his collegiate career against a top-10 Auburn team and help win the game. He did that. 

But on Saturday, against a tough South Carolina defense, he was asked to throw into the wind and rain in hostile territory to carry his team once again. And he struggled, completing just over 50 percent of his throws (nine of 16) in the first half and throwing an interception on the opening drive of the second. 

But the defense, which has been the anchor of this UF team for most of the season, came to his aid.

“We just keep coaching. Our guys keep playing, give great effort,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “At halftime, not a whole lot of panic… But found a way to win.”

After allowing 42 points to LSU in Death Valley a week ago, the defense held SC quarterback Ryan Hilinski to a 48.6 percent completion rate, 170 yards and a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The secondary blanketed the South Carolina receivers, allowing just two receivers more than two receptions in the game. 

Junior cornerback C.J. Henderson was tested multiple times on his side. He held receiver Bryan Edwards — who came into the matchup leading his team in yards, catches and touchdowns — to seven catches on 11 targets and no touchdowns to go along with nine total tackles, a sack and a pass breakup. 

The defensive line, which played the whole game without edge rusher Jonathan Greenard and defensive tackle Jabari Zuniga, pressured the quarterback all game, forcing multiple hurries and three sacks. 

Injuries continued to pile up into the game. The defense saw Henderson and redshirt junior defensive tackle Marlon Dunlap Jr. go down late in the game.

To compensate, Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham sent blitz packages for much of the game against a young South Carolina offensive line that started three underclassmen. 

The defense did, however, struggle against the run game for the second week in a row. After allowing 218 total yards and three touchdowns on the ground against LSU, the Gators conceded 217 rushing yards and two touchdowns against SC. Senior running back Tavien Feaster had a career-high 175 of those yards and a touchdown.

“I thought (South Carolina) did a really good job scheming it up (in the run game),” Mullen said. “They had to make some changes with Hilinski not being able to move there… and then I thought they did a really good job creating schemes of attacking.”

The Florida offense did eventually open up, scoring 21 unanswered points to put the game out of reach. The Gamecocks scored 27 points by the end of the game, more than in the win over then-No. 3 Georgia a week ago, but the defense, with the help of linebacker David Reese II’s team-leading 13 tackles, held them in check long enough for the UF offense to get going and put the game away. 

“We expect to win every game that we play in, so it’s not too much we need to think,” Reese II said. “We just got to execute the plan, know the plan to win, and we expect to win every game we play. We’re Florida, that’s what we expect.”

Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph. Contact him at [email protected]

Dylan is a third-year journalism major. He is currently the sports reporter for the University of Florida volleyball team and women's basketball team.