Photo by Evan Lepak / Getty Images

The third-ranked Florida Gators started their home schedule off with a closer-than-it-looked win Saturday. Once again the Gator offense shined while the defense had a shaky afternoon.

South Carolina took the ball and promptly went on a nearly 7-minute drive to take a 7-0 lead thanks to tailback Kevin Harris. He accounted for 41 of Carolina’s 75-yard drive along with the score. A couple chunk plays through the air helped keep the drive going.

The Gators responded with a touchdown drive of their own. They too leaned on the running game to grind out yards and had two plays of 15+ yards through the air thanks to TreVon Grimes and Kyle Pitts. Dameon Pierce shouldered the rushing load with 27 yards including a 2-yard touchdown run.

After the opening drive Florida defense calmed down a bit. It forced a punt of Carolina’s next drive allowing Florida to take the lead 14-7 thanks to the Trask-Kyle Pitts connection. A second straight Gamecock punt gave the Gators a chance to extend its lead but a fumble by Trask on a quarterback keeper gave Collin Hill and the Gamecock offense a short field. They’d use to their advantage of tie it up at 14.

The Gators’ next drive stalled out inside the 10 but still resulted in points thanks to an Evan McPherson field goal and a 17-14 Florida lead. South Carolina punted after a third-down sack by Zach Carter. A couple of penalties, chunk plays and another Kyle to Kyle touchdown gave Florida a 24-14 lead heading into halftime.

Carolina ended the half with 150 yards of total offense compared to Florida’s 242.

Florida punted to start the second half but got the ball back six plays later after Ventrell Miller recovered a fumble on a toss play gone awry. A pass interference call got Florida down to the 15. Two plays later a twisting grab by freshman Trent Whittemore extended the lead 31-14.

Kadarius Toney blew the game open after another Florida stop. The senior wide receiver caught an in route over the mild and blew through a sea of defenders for a 57-yard score to make it 38-14. The catch-and-run gave Trask his third career game with four passing touchdowns.

He’d finish with that many as Florida wouldn’t score the rest of the game. Following a Gamecock field goal an incredible interception by safety Israel Mukuamu gave Will Muschamp’s team another short field and an ensuing touchdown drive closed the gap to 38-24. A quick three-and-out by Florida gave Carolina a chance to make it a one-score game.

Hill and the Gamecock offense converted on multiple key downs and drove all the way down to the Florida four yard line without a single timeout only to turn it over on downs. They threw four straight incompletions with two dropped by star receiver Shi Smith. Florida’s offense ran out the clock from there and secured Florida’s second win of the season.

Dan Mullen team is on the road again as they head to College Station, Texas for a matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies. It is their first game in Aggieland since A&M’s conference debut against the Gators in 2012.

Game Leaders: Florida

Kyle Trask: 21-29, 268 yds, 4 TDs and 1 INT

Dameon Pierce: 51 yards, 1 TD

Kadarius Toney: 6 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD

Kyle Pitts: 4 catches, 57 yards, 2 TDs

Kaiir Elam: 8 tackles, 6 solo, 1 TFL, 2 PBUs

Zach Carter: 8 tackles, 3 solo, 1.5 sacks

Game Leaders: SCAR

Collin Hill: 28-47, 212 yds, 2 TDs

Kevin Harris: 22 atts, 100 yds, 1 TD

Shi Smith: 12 catches, 85 yds, 1 TD

Keir Thomas: 6 tackles, 1 solo, 1 sack

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