Feleipe Franks

Quarterback Feleipe Franks shushes the home crowd at The Swamp after his second rushing touchdown against South Carolina on Saturday. 

Lamical Perine made a jump-cut with elite quickness. The junior running back juked against the grain of his blocking and burst through the line 23 yards from the South Carolina goal line. He zig-zagged past defenders and blockers and juked again. Burgundy helmets and white jerseys flew past his body. Then, nobody stood between Perine and the end zone. Touchdown.

The scamper that came with 11:03 left in the game brought the Gators within three points of the Gamecocks.

Florida went 66 yards on its next drive -- 10 plays, all runs -- and finished it off with a QB power on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to take its first lead of the contest. Feleipe Franks hushed his doubters and the boo-birds with an index finger to his facemask and lifted the Gators to a 35-31 victory. The conversion completed an 17-point comeback over Will Muschamp’s ball club in The Swamp.

“I told (Franks), you’re going to get booed,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “He ran the ball hard, which is one of the things we’re on him about. Be a willing runner. Be tough and get some tough yards when we need them.”

UF threw the ball only twice in the fourth quarter despite trailing by 10 entering the frame. It leaned on its ground game for 23 attempts and averaged 7 yards per carry in the fourth. Florida had 367 yards on 62 rushes over the course of day.

The touchdown runs stood out, but the fourth-quarter effort from redshirt junior tailback Jordan Scarlett was equally as massive. He had 86 yards in the final 15 minutes including a 28-yard game-icer. He bounced the play to the opposite field on third-and-6 with just under three minutes remaining and slid down in bounds to keep the clock ticking.

“Every time we get the ball a lot, we always tell Coach, ‘Oh, we’re going to take over. We’re going to take control,’” Scarlett said. “The more he’ll trust us, the more we’ll do this thing.”

Scarlett led the Gators in rushing with 159 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per run. Perine and Franks each picked up a pair of touchdowns on the ground, and some of their most important runs came on third down.

Perine’s first touchdown came on third-and-goal from two yards out.  Franks had four third-down conversions via the run, including a 10-yard bruiser in the second quarter for his team’s first score.

Florida converted 10 third downs, seven of which came when it handed the ball off. It rushed the ball 10 times for 60 yards on the critical down.

The Gators changed the pace of pounding the football by utilizing screens and wildcat sets with one of its most important playmakers, Kadarius Toney.

Toney shifted direction like a human joystick. He got the ball on two critical plays in the second half despite muffing a punt early in the third quarter that led to a South Carolina field goal.

He caught the ball on a screen late in the third. He left USC safety Steven Montac in the dust with a juke during an 18-yard touchdown trip. His score was the first of 21 unanswered points to finish out the contest.

“Every time I touch the ball I try to get in the end zone,” Toney said. “That’s my mindset. I don’t really think about people in front of me... if they in my way, Imma get through them to get to the end zone."

The junior from Mobile, Alabama, also took a reverse 33 yards to the Gamecocks’ five that set up the first-and-goal on the game’s decisive drive. It was Florida’s longest run.

"It's just us executing,” Toney said, “like let's go out there and execute, that's all it pretty much was. As long as we go out there and execute, nobody can stop us."

 

Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at [email protected].


Mark Stine is sports editor for the Independent Florida Alligator. He's a senior at UF and has written softball, women's soccer, men's tennis and cross country in the past.