Gators D carries the day at home
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Florida's offensive struggles continued for the fourth consecutive game. It didn't really matter against Jacksonville State.
It might next week.
The seventh-ranked Gators turned in another mediocre showing against a less talented team, relying on a strong defensive effort to win their final home game 23-0 on Saturday.
Florida finishes its season against rival Florida State next week in Tallahassee.
The gators showed little offense following an impressive 80-yard drive on its first possession. Mike Gillislee carried eight times in the 12-play drive, netting 35 yards, including the final 7 on a run up the middle to the end zone.
But that proved to be Florida's only drive of the day that ended with a touchdown. Four other possessions reached the Gamecocks 30 but eventually stalled. Caleb Sturgis put points on the board with field goals from 21, 44 and 47 yards out. A 37-yard attempt late in the first half was blocked.
Last Saturday, the Gators had to score twice in the final 1:42 of the game to beat Louisiana-Lafayette, with the winning touchdown coming on a blocked punt return for a score with two seconds left in the game.
''We need to do better to be more consistent offensively,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. ''I know I have been saying that, and I know it's a broken record, but we will continue to work at it and do what we have to do to put ourselves in a situation where we have the game under control defensively.
''We could have done some more things offensively, but I said, `let's go out here and win the game' and that is what we needed to do.''
Florida (10-1) was burned for a 76-yard pass completion on the first play of the game when receiver Kevyn Cooper caught a short pass, rolled on top and over two Florida defenders and continued down the sideline before he was caught from behind at the 7. But the defense stiffened, forcing the Gamecocks to try a 25-yard field goal that sailed wide left.
Jacksonville State (6-5) only managed another 166 total yards in the game. The Gamecocks, a Football Championship Series (FCS) program that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, crossed midfield on just one other occasion. That came early in the second quarter when they put together a 71-yard drive to the Florida 19-yard line, only to have Griffin Thomas miss another field goal attempt.
''We could have scored on them,'' Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe said. ''We had some opportunities in the first half. That's the first time we've been shut out in a long time. But if you're going to have it happen, you want it to be against a quality team like they are.''
Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett started in place of injured Jeff Driscoll. Brissett connected on 14-of-22 passes for 154 yards, but missed open receivers on several occasions, including throwing behind an open Jordan Reed in the end zone.
Gillislee led the ground game with 122 of Florida's 202 rushing yards and its only offensive touchdown.
Florida's only other touchdown came early in the third quarter following a punt that forced Jacksonville State to start from its 2-yard line. On a third-down pass play, senior linebacker Jonathan Bostic stepped in front of a Gamecocks receiver and returned an interception 7 yards to the end zone.
''He threw it right to me,'' said Bostic about his second pick of the season. ''We knew someone had to make a play down there. I was just the guy who made the play.''