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Gators' defense struggles once again

Big plays, penalties and being unprepared contribute to Florida allowing big points for the second straight week.

By IAN FISHER
Published November 13, 2005


COLUMBIA, S.C. - With a 14-10 victory against Georgia on Oct.29, Florida shored up its identity as a defense-first team.

But after giving up 42 points to Vanderbilt last week and 30 to South Carolina on Saturday, the Gators' strength has become another weakness.

South Carolina had only 246 yards of offense, but the woes were more about big plays, penalties and being unprepared.

Early in the second quarter, Blake Mitchell hit Sidney Rice for a 19-yard pass to the Gators 8. That helped lead to Daccus Turman's 1-yard run that made it 14-3. Later in the quarter, Mike Davis' 24-yard run put the ball at the Gators 11. Four plays later, Turman's 3-yard run made it 20-3.

But the biggest play came in the third quarter, one series after Florida cut it to 20-19 on Billy Latsko's 11-yard touchdown catch. The Gamecocks had a first down on their 35 when Mitchell dumped a short pass to Rice. Rice broke free of cornerback Dee Webb, and safety Kyle Jackson "just flat-out missed," Rice said.

Rice took it for 64 yards before safety Reggie Nelson chased him down and tackled him at the 1. South Carolina scored on the ensuing play to go up 27-19 and take back the momentum.

"I never lost faith, but it kind of took the heart out of a lot of guys," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "They fed off that."

It wasn't the only bad play by Webb, though.

He was called for pass interference twice and a 15-yard personal foul. One of Webb's pass interference penalties came in the fourth quarter on a second and 10. The Gamecocks eventually kicked a field goal for a 30-22 lead.

Webb's other penalties came during the Gamecocks' second touchdown drive.

"I'm pretty questionable on a lot of those pass interferences," Mincey said. "I watched the (replays) on the screen ... and I'm like, "Wow.' But you ... got to overlook that. They outplayed us."

Another problem for Florida was it prepared for a traditional Steve Spurrier passing attack. But the Gamecocks rushed the ball 36 times and passed it only 17.

"They kind of caught us off guard," tackle Marcus Thomas said. "They were killing us with the inside draw plays. We were real aggressive trying to get to the quarterback, and they were running inside on us."