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Florida 35, South Carolina 31: Gators storm back to shock ‘Cocks, shush boos

A gritty, gutty performance from Feleipe Franks led the Gators in their second stunning comeback of the year.

South Carolina v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Florida Gators were down 14-0 and 31-14 against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday. The boo-birds who chirped when Florida fell behind were out in full force in both the first and second halves, despite Feleipe Franks shushing them — literally.

Florida was in a deep hole, and sinking.

Then the Gators staged their second 17-point comeback of the 2018 season, storming back to score the game’s final 21 points over the final 20 minutes of play for an 35-31 win over South Carolina that serves notice that these Gators had no interest in ending their season quietly.

Franks, for once, was arguably the fulcrum of Florida’s offense — and not entirely for the talent that resides in his right arm.

Florida’s redshirt sophomore QB threw for 161 yards and a touchdown, completing a tidy 15 of 21 throws, but his physical, gutsy running, which generated 36 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns — each of which he followed by throwing a finger to his mouth and gesturing to the crowd — was the finishing touch on a bruising running game.

And while that running game that carried the Gators was still led by its running backs between the 20s, Franks was arguably the best goal-line back the Gators had, with his second touchdown on the ground coming on fourth and goal late in the fourth quarter and serving as the game-winning score.

Jordan Scarlett had 159 yards on his 18 carries, Lamical Perine had 109 yards on his 16, and Kadarius Toney sprinted 51 yards on his four carries and 33 yards on his two receptions — one of them the lone Franks touchdown pass on the day — as the Gators rolled up 528 yards on Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks, compiling a staggering 367 of them on the ground.

And Florida’s beleaguered defense, which gave up 31 points for the third straight game for the first time in decades, did enough late to make that stand up. The Gators held South Carolina to just two first downs after going down 31-14, with C.J. Henderson picking off Jake Bentley — who was otherwise excellent on the day, throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns — to snuff out the final South Carolina drive.

That turnover, Florida’s first on defense in more than a month, didn’t totally seal the game; a reversal of field from Scarlett on a third down on the subsequent drive did.

But it was representative of Florida’s fight on a day when the Gators looked listless while going down and relentless in rallying back from those deficits.

And for fans who have spent much of the last few weeks worrying about the status and direction of a program that had faltered after racing out to a 6-1 start, Florida’s play backed up Franks’s message, one that should probably sink in: