GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dylan Thompson scored on a 4-yard keeper in overtime, giving South Carolina a 23-20 victory over Florida on Saturday.
The Gamecocks ended a four-game losing streak in Southeastern Conference play and knocked the Gators out of contention in the muddled Eastern Division.
The loss also could be the end for Gators coach Will Muschamp. The fourth-year coach has been on the hot seat all season, and a three-game losing streak at home could be the final blow in what’s been a mediocre tenure.
“Sometimes you have to just say it was meant to be,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “It was meant to be for us to win this one.”
Florida’s biggest problem Saturday was special teams. The Gamecocks blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter that would have given the Gators a 10-point lead with a little more than 3 minutes to play. Florida also had a punt blocked with 39 seconds left, setting up the game-tying touchdown.
Mike Davis recovered fumbled pitch in the end zone for a touchdown, and the extra point tied the game at 17 with 12 seconds remaining.
It surely will be deemed an inexcusable collapse for the Gators — and Muschamp. Florida nearly lost to Kentucky and Tennessee early in the season and then dropped home games to LSU and Missouri. The Gators should have won both, losing to LSU after dropping a would-be touchdown in the final minutes and getting drubbed by Mizzou because of six turnovers.
Florida also allowed Missouri to score on a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a score.
The latest loss was especially bad because South Carolina limped into the game with one of the worst defenses in the league and the country.
It may have been the final game in the Swamp for Spurrier and Muschamp. The “Head Ball Coach” said last week he plans to return for an 11th season, but there’s no guarantee he will be around when the Gamecocks return to Gainesville in 2016.
“I’m getting old when you start feeling for the other coach,” said Spurrier, who has developed a close relationship with Muschamp.
South Carolina looked like it would roll early. The Gamecocks scored on their first two possessions.
Spurrier’s team had outgained Florida 136-6 late in the first quarter. But the Gators seemingly woke up about an hour later than the noon kickoff and got things going.
Florida evened the scored on Treon Harris’ 11-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson and then went ahead on Matt Jones’ 1-yard run late in the third quarter.
The Gators scored 17 unanswered points and looked like they would put the game away with a 32-yard field goal with 3:31 remaining. But Frankie Velez’s kick was blocked, giving South Carolina life.
South Carolina scored four plays later, getting some help on a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Tennessee 50, Kentucky 16: In Knoxville, Tenn.m Joshua Dobbs threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score as Tennessee trounced Kentucky.
Tennessee (5-5, 2-4 SEC) beat Kentucky (5-6, 2-6) for the 29th time in their last 30 meetings. Kentucky lost its fifth straight overall in a matchup between two teams chasing their first bowl bids since 2010.
The Volunteers can become bowl eligible by beating Missouri at home next week or by winning at Vanderbilt on Nov. 29. Kentucky must win Nov. 29 at Louisville to have a shot at a bowl bid.
Dobbs went 19 of 27 for 297 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Von Pearson and one to Justin Croom. Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Austin MacGinnis kicked three field goals for Kentucky, including a school-record 54-yarder.
Tennessee’s offense continued its remarkable surge with Dobbs’ emergence.
The Vols had to change quarterbacks after Justin Worley tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, knocking him out for the season. After Nathan Peterman played the first two series of a 34-20 loss to Alabama on Oct. 25, Dobbs took over and hasn’t looked back.
Dobbs rallied Tennessee to a 45-42 overtime victory at South Carolina two weeks ago, while setting a single-game school rushing record for a quarterback and becoming the first Vol ever to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 yards in the same game. He showed Saturday that performance was no fluke.
On Tennessee’s opening possession, Dobbs flipped a short pass that Pearson turned into a 21-yard touchdown. Dobbs connected with Pearson again for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Dobbs threw a career-long 52-yard touchdown completion to Croom.
After Kentucky took an early 3-0 lead, Tennessee scored the game’s next 30 points while capitalizing on an injury to Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles.
Towles, who was largely responsible for setting up the field goal on Kentucky’s opening possession, left the game during the Wildcats’ second series. Kentucky’s offense wasn’t the same without him.
On Kentucky’s third drive, cornerback Justin Coleman hit redshirt freshman Reese Phillips just as he attempted a pass, resulting in an errant throw that safety Brian Randolph caught and returned 23 yards for Tennessee’s first defensive touchdown of the season.
By the time Towles got back into the game early in the second quarter, Kentucky trailed 20-3. His return couldn’t stop Tennessee’s momentum.
Kentucky has allowed 113 points over its last two contests — the first time since 1994 it has given up at least 50 points in back-to-back weeks — and has dropped five straight games by an average margin of 25.6 points.
The news wasn’t all good for the Vols.
Randolph was ejected for a targeting penalty in third quarter, which will prevent him from playing the first half of the Missouri game. Tennessee also lost starting center Mack Crowder to an apparent leg injury in the second half.