South Carolina defensive line proves stout in victory over Florida

South Carolina defensive line proves stout in victory over Florida

By Josh Hyber/Photo by Allen Sharpe 

Javon Kinlaw and Taylor Stallworth walked into the Williams-Brice Stadium media room after South Carolina’s 28-20 win over Florida and put on a show.

The chemistry. The laughs.

It was a show no different from the one the two — and their defensive line unit — put on all afternoon on the field against the Gators. Through 60 minutes, the Gamecocks (7-3, 5-3 SEC) finished with four sacks, seven tackles for loss, six pass breakups and nine quarterback hits.

The six-minute media session was highlighted by how Stallworth and Kinlaw described one play that happened early in the fourth quarter. The play, a third-and-18 in which UF’s Feleipe Franks threw an incomplete pass, saw the 300-pound Kinlaw move halfway across the field to force an incomplete pass.

Game photos by Allen Sharpe

When Kinlaw was asked to describe the play, Stallworth took the mic.

“Let me give y’all my perspective,” the 6-foot-2, 302-pound senior said. “I did my technique and saw JK coming free … In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘They better call the ambulance.’”

Added the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Kinlaw, “In my mind, I’m fixing to knock this boy out. I start drooling. I was like, ‘Come on, slow him down.’ And it happened. (SC defensive back) Jamyest (Williams) slowed him down enough, so I just tried to knock him out.

“From my perspective, you know, I ran the little stunt and they kept saying, ‘Watch the screen.’ So, they throw that little pass, so I said, ‘Oh, yeah. It’s over. It’s over.’ So, I just had to put the jets on a little bit. You know what I’m saying?

“I ran over there, did my thing, got up, got a little hype. Had to go to the next play.”

“When you talk about effort, when you talk about ‘Wow’ plays, that’s what we’re talking about,” SC head coach Will Muschamp said. “The big man can run.”

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There were many such plays from the SC defense, especially in crunch time.

With South Carolina holding a 28-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, Gamecock linebacker Aaron Sterling sacked Franks on a first-and-10. From there, the defense forced two incomplete passes and the Gators had to punt. 

Then, with the Gamecocks’ lead slimmed to 28-20 with 3:19 to go in the fourth quarter, the defense came through again.

On a first-and-10 with 3:19 to go in regulation, Franks was forced from the pocket by Gamecock defensive end Keir Thomas. The quarterback turned his head to try to make a play, but what he saw was Gamecock end D.J. Wonnum, who planted him into the turf and forced him into an intentional grounding. 

That put the Gators in a second-and-17 predicament from their own 14-yard line. Six plays later, Williams intercepted Franks to end the game.

 “We felt good about our matchups up front,” Muschamp said, mentioning Stallworth specifically.  

“He has really good inline quickness,” the coach said. “And he’s strong and powerful. We feel very good if he’s going to be in a one-on-one.” 

Said Stallworth, who missed some time in the second half of the Gamecocks’ loss to No. 1 Georgia with an unknown injury, “Scheme-wise, we were able to get (a lot of) pass rush on them. In certain areas, they weren’t good at (guarding) the pass rush. Watching film, we saw that.”

Kinlaw agreed.

“We knew going in that they weren’t going to run the ball,” Kinlaw said.

Stallworth hurried Florida starting quarterback Malik Zaire on the first play of the game, Wonnum followed suit on the next and SC didn’t look back.

“It seems like he always does, but he got good pressure on the quarterback,” Muschamp said of Wonnum.

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Two drives later, South Carolina cornerback Jamarcus King picked up the Gamecocks’ first sack. Four plays later, the Gamecocks forced a false start penalty and the Gators punted.

In the end, it was a rough afternoon for the Florida offense. The Gators ran for just 78 yards on 22 attempts and threw for 223.

Franks completed 10-of-25 passes after replacing Zaire, who completed 7-of-14. Zaire hurt his left knee following a 23-yard run in the second quarter. After sitting out a play, the Gators ran a designed quarterback run. The Notre Dame transfer took two steps, collapsed and exited the game for good. 

“I thought we competed extremely well,” Muschamp said. “You take away two runs that they had and the one quarterback counter they had, you take those three runs out and the run-game was non-existent.” 

On an afternoon that dipped into the low 40s, South Carolina’s defense brought the heat.

All night long the Gamecocks’ defense danced on the field before drives, mimicking what the New York Jets did during a Thursday night game two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills. 

“Getting hyped like that, it makes it a lot easier to play,” Kinlaw said. “When I get hyped like that, I’m like a little Chihuahua. Everywhere. Trying to get everywhere.”

Added Stallworth, fittingly ending the fun media session and day as a whole, “You couldn’t say Doberman?”