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Gators Rally for Gritty Win

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Willpower, for the home team, was the way through.

Toughness is a trait that all good teams share. On Saturday versus South Carolina, Florida showed just that. Though the Gators didn't necessarily play their best game of the season, they still beat a talented SEC opponent; that, above all else, may the ultimate sign of progress in year one of the Dan Mullen era at Florida. The Gators, now 7-3 with five wins in conference play, earned every bit of their most-recent win.

When a late third quarter touchdown run gave South Carolina a 31-14 advantage, the pressure was very much mounting for Florida. In addition to the score, quarterback Feleipe Franks had not made many big plays through the air, the Gators had been beaten a number of times defensively and much of the early season momentum, coupled with a recent disappointment against Missouri, seemed to be gone. It was in that dimming-spotlight that Florida, and Franks, found themselves.

Willpower, for the home team, was the way through.

The Gators immediately responded with three consecutive touchdown marches, a 10-play, 75-yard drive, an 8-play, 89-yard drive and a 10-play, 66-yard drive. On those three possessions, Franks was 6-of-7 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown, adding 26 rushing yards and the game-winning dive on 4th-and-goal. Florida scored the game's final 21 points, all in the last 16 minutes, in an impressive comeback victory. Even down multiple scores in the second half, the Gators remained persistent and never lost their edge.  

Winning continually at the line of scrimmage, Florida ran for 367 yards and four touchdowns at 5.9 yards per attempt. The rushing total stands as the highest for the Gators since their 418-yard outburst against Georgia in 2014. Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine both topped the 100-yard mark, with Kadarius Toney and Feleipe Franks combining for nearly 90. Such production helped Florida compile 33 first downs and hold possession for 35:40. Defensively, the Gators rose to the occasion late, too, limiting USC to merely 13 yards in the fourth quarter. 

An emotional comeback keeps Mullen's process moving forward. Mental and physical resolve, in the face of rising adversity, proved to be the difference.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports