Florida's players didn't get the outcome they wanted from their trip to Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night, but they were happy with how hard they fought in the 19-14 loss to No. 11 South Carolina.
"It's frustrating, but I want to take my hat off to my team," said sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. after the game. "For us, after all this adversity, we have no excuses, but we kept fighting. For 60 minutes we played tough football and gave it all we could. They came up with the 'W,' but at the end of the day I'm proud of my team."
Six Gator rushers combined for 200 yards behind Florida's injury-riddled offensive line, and their defense kept a Gamecock offense averaging 456.4 yards per game out of rhythm. Despite the loss, several Gators took time to appreciate the positive takeaways.
"I think we did a good job running the ball in the first half," Garcia said. "We really went out there and got after it. Starting on the first play of the game, that was the intensity of the week; we're going to run the ball and we're going to play smash mouth football and we showed that in the first half. I think we showed people that we are physical and that we are still Florida.
Garcia's teammates admired the work he and the offensive line put into pushing South Carolina's vaunted defensive line around for much of the game.
"Our front seven, for us to pound the ball like that for four quarters, I take my hat off to the offensive line," Fowler Jr. said. "A lot of people would let up and get tired, and for them to just keep pounding the rock like that for four quarters, I salute them a lot."
Fowler Jr. also praised the team's resolve, saying the Gators need to keep it up moving forward.
"We can take how we did in this game into the final two games," Fowler Jr. said. "We need to play like that all the time, with intensity, juice, and just keep fighting until the double-zeros out there at the end of the game."
Junior running back Mack Brown, who took 11 carries for 51 yards, said the Gators had a team meeting before the game, and that they decided they didn't want to be remembered for losing to Vanderbilt, but rather for pulling the upset of South Carolina.
"We fought hard, it was a good game. We got a lot of pride on our team," Brown said. "We came close, man. We came real close."
Skyler Mornhinweg, a redshirt freshman who got the first playing time of his career Saturday night, said he was excited for the game and thought the Gators had a good chance to win the whole time.
"We expect we're going to win and be physical and dominate every game, so that's what we expected," Mornhinweg said.
Mornhinweg, Florida's third string quarterback, completed 10 of his 13 passes for 107 yards and an interception. Like many of Florida's players, he was on the field primarily because of injuries to players above him on the depth chart. But that's no excuse for losing, Mornhinweg said.
"Coaches are always in our head about 'you got a man down, you've got to man up,'" Mornhinweg said. "That's our philosophy, so we've just got to keep grinding, and we'll be alright."
Having lost five straight games, Florida is in danger of not being bowl eligible for the first season since 1990. Fans and media alike have been critical of the Gators, but Fowler Jr. said the team has to keep its head up and continue to fight like they did Saturday night.
"It's a lot of negativity outside," Fowler Jr. said. "You can't stand but not to hear it, but we don't pay attention to things like that. We just keep playing, we keep fighting, we do what we've got to do to win these next two games."