Florida’s Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals and its stout defense limited the Gamecocks to 38 total yards after halftime as the No. 7 Gators prevailed 23-0 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in the first meeting between the schools.
Jacksonville State concluded the season with a 6-5 record, its fewest victories since 2007. Among the Gamecocks’ five losses was a 49-24 defeat at Arkansas in the season opener.
Florida improved to 10-1 heading into a Top 10 showdown against rival Florida State next Saturday.
The Gamecocks came away without points on their only two drives deep into Florida territory, failing to convert field goals of 25 and 36 yards.
It marked the first time Jacksonville State has been shutout in 133 games, a streak dating back to a 28-0 loss to Troy in 2000.
“We had some opportunities in the first half,” said Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe.
“That’s the first time we’ve been shut out in a long time. But if you’re going to have it happen, you want it to be against a quality team like they are.”
“I don’t know if there’s a better defense in the country,” said second-year Gators head coach Will Muschamp, a one-time graduate assistant at Jacksonville State. “We’re playing very well right now.”
Jacksonville State shocked the Gators and the 82,691 gathered in “The Swamp” on its first offensive play.
Marques Ivory completed a short pass to Kevyn Cooper, who was tackled by two Florida defenders. Cooper fell on top of one of the Gators but never touched the turf, springing to his feet and sprinting down the sideline in front of Florida’s players and coaches for a 76-yard gain to the UF 7.
The pass play was Jacksonville State’s longest non-scoring play from scrimmage since moving up to Division I.
“We ran the hitch outside and the corner came straight at my knees and I landed on him,” said Cooper. “I didn’t hear the whistle, so I just kept running.”
The opening drive stalled, however, and the Gamecocks came away empty-handed when Griffin Thomas’ 25-yard field goal attempt sailed left with 12:53 remaining in first quarter.
The Gators’ offense responded with a methodical 80-yard march after the missed JSU field goal try.
Gillislee, who entered the game as the Southeastern Conference’s fourth-leading rusher with 842 yards, was the workhorse with eight carries on the 12-play march. He completed the drive with a seven-yard run up the middle at 6:02 mark in the first quarter.
Gillislee finished with 122 yards on 20 carries.
Florida moved 61 yards in six plays to increase its lead to 10-0 on the next drive. Gillislee’s 46-yard run got the Gators deep into Gamecocks’ territory, but the drive stalled at the JSU 4 and Sturgis came in to kick a 21-yard field goal with 2:22 left in the first.
Ivory connected on four consecutive passes during a second-quarter drive as Jacksonville marched from its 10 to Florida’s 19. But Griffin missed a 36-yard attempt, this time wide to the right, with just under six minutes left before halftime.
Florida moved 70 yards on 11 plays on the ensuing possession but came away without points when Jacksonville State senior Brooks Robinson broke through to block Sturgis’ 27-yard field goal attempt with 1:23 left in second quarter.
An ill-advised decision by Alan Bonner to call a fair catch on a Gators punt, coupled with a holding penalty, pinned the Gamecocks at the 2 early in the third quarter.
After failing to gain any yardage with two runs, Ivory attempted to pass from the end zone on third down. Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic stepped in front of Ivory’s pass and returned it seven yards for a touchdown with 10:38 left in the third quarter.
Sturgis added field goals of 44 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter to conclude the scoring.
Ivory, in his final game with the Gamecocks, completed 14-of-25 passes for 169 yards and moved past Ryan Perrilloux into fifth place on the school’s all-time passing list. Ivory passed for 2,086 yards as a senior, the eighth time 2,000-yard passing season in JSU history.
“I was proud of our guys for the way they fought,” Crowe said. “I appreciate the opportunity to play against the University of Florida; we don’t take these games for granted. They are very important games to us.”