No. 15 Florida needs better QB play vs. South Carolina

Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) throws the ball as Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Tre Williams (93) defends during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Xchange

No. 15 Florida is facing a quarterback controversy as it heads into its final SEC game of the season on Saturday against South Carolina.

Starter Feleipe Franks was benched in the second half during another rocky performance as Missouri spoiled UF’s homecoming with a 38-17 win on Saturday. Franks completed just 9 of 22 passes for 84 yards before giving way to redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 126 yards and one TD.

“They graded within one point of each other,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “Let’s see how the week goes. There were a lot of other problems besides the quarterback.”

Mullen said there’s a chance that all three of his quarterbacks, including true freshman dual-threat Emory Jones, could play. Franks started UF’s first nine games this season and 17 in his career.

“I don’t know that they change a lot depending on who the quarterback is,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said about Franks and Trask.

South Carolina, with back-to-back wins for the first time this season, is looking to seal a winning conference record for a second consecutive season.

The Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3 SEC) also will be looking to lock down bowl eligibility for a third consecutive year under Muschamp, who is emphasizing a steady-as-she-goes approach with his players before the matchup with the Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC).

“I think our guys have been pretty steady in their approach each week and understand the workman-like mentality on a Tuesday,” Muschamp said. “Same for Wednesday and Thursday.

“That’s the one thing these guys do is go in and work. I think their preparation has been very good to this point. Obviously, we’re a little inconsistent with our play on Saturdays earlier in the fall and, hopefully, we’re getting better.”

South Carolina is coming off a wild 48-44 win at Ole Miss in which junior quarterback Jake Bentley passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns. The junior is sixth in program history with 5,880 career yards.

He’ll take aim at a Florida pass defense that gave up 250 passing yards and three touchdowns to Missouri quarterback Drew Lock last week.

Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson returned last week from a back injury that sidelined him for the majority of the game against Georgia to record two pass breakups against Missouri. He and the rest of the secondary will face a stiff test in man coverage against speedy Deebo Samuel, who has 39 catches for 407 yards and five TDs.

Samuel also had a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown to open last week’s game, the fourth kick return score of his career, tying an SEC record.

Florida has allowed 74 points in back-to-back losses, including to Georgia, but it does have a standout pass rusher in defensive lineman Jachai Polite, a junior who is having a breakout season with seven sacks. His four forced fumbles are tied for the FBS lead among defensive linemen.

The Gamecocks have surrendered only 11 sacks all season, with four of those coming in the early loss to Kentucky.

South Carolina’s past four games have been decided by four points or fewer.

“They are a team that’s played in a lot of close games in this league, won a lot of close games,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to come out desperate to compete on every play.”

The trip to Gainesville will be the second for Muschamp since he became South Carolina’s coach. The first for the former Gators head coach was in 2016, when host Florida held on for a 20-7 victory after jumping out to a 20-0 lead after three quarters.

Muschamp was asked about the differences for this trip.

“We’re an older team, number one,” he said. “We have more experience on our football team. For me, it’s another SEC East opponent. I know y’all have a hard time believing that, but it really is.

“We spend as much time at the office this week as we do every single week that we have. It’s another great opportunity for our team on the road.”