If you'd forgotten the kind of impact turnovers have on a ballgame, look no further than how the Florida Gators used them to their advantage in a big win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Florida used the momentum of three first-half turnovers by South Carolina to take a 21-6 halftime lead, and then showed they can still move the ball a little bit, too, en route to a 44-11 victory.
The only second-half blemish for Florida was a blocked extra point returned for two South Carolina points. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was certainly hoping for a better return to the Swamp, but his team couldn't hold onto the ball long enough to ever threaten Florida.
On consecutive punt and kickoff returns, South Carolina put the ball on the turf. Ace Sanders fumbled a punt that set up the Gators' second touchdown of the day, and then Damiere Byrd did the same on the ensuing kickoff. Florida converted for a 21-3 lead, and South Carolina never recovered.
Things were so bad that the old ball coach inserted backup Dylan Thompson as his starting QB for the second half. He didn't fare any better against the Gators defense than starter Connor Shaw did, as the Gamecocks were forced to punt on his first three drives of the second half.
The win takes Florida to 7-0 (6-0), while dropping South Carolina to 6-2 (4-2). We've got all the latest Twitter reaction, grades for key players and more below, so keep reading to see what it all means for these SEC foes.
Tweets of the Day
After starting QB Connor Shaw coughed it up on the first play from scrimmage, College Football Report's Mark Packer used the five-letter word that all South Carolina fans were thinking in this tweet:
Gamecocks fumble first play of the game, Gators recover on Spurrier's 3-yard line. Yikes.— Mark Packer (@MarkPacker) October 20, 2012
WJBF writer Matt Zahn outlined the Gators' first three touchdown drives here, reminding those who didn't realize that the Gators had 21 points on only 29 yards of total offense in the first half.
To keep things along those same lines, ESPN's Stats and Information page noted how rare the feat was for the Gators.
Florida 21 points at half on 29 yards of total offense. 2008 Rutgers last team with 3+ TD and 80 or fewer yards of total offense in a half— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 20, 2012
As Spurrier did his best to bring back cries of the two-QB system, Dan Wolken of USA Today mirrored the sentiment of many South Carolina faithful about the fortunes of backup Dylan Thompson.
So Spurrier goes with Dylan Thompson to start 2nd half at QB. And, yep, he's still not good.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 20, 2012
Former Florida football player and up-and-coming WWE star Titus O'Neil noticed his alma mater's big game, giving a nod to Gator nation on the march toward the SEC championship game.
And to end the day, here's a parody tweet from the "Peyton's Head" account, as Florida fans were glad that Spurrier was once again roaming the sidelines in Gainesville.
Steve Spurrier's offense, still winning games for Florida.— Peyton's Head (@PeytonsHead) October 20, 2012
Game Grades for Key Players
Florida QB Jeff Driskel: A+
Driskel's final line wasn't great, but he didn't turn the ball over and made every one of the South Carolina turnovers hurt. At the end of the day, if your QB has four touchdown passes to zero interceptions, he doesn't get any grade other than A+.
As Florida enters the softer part of their schedule, Driskel has proven he is ready to run this offense toward a showdown with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, though Florida will have to get past Georgia first.
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw: F
From fumbling the opening play of the game to getting pulled in favor of Dylan Thompson, the senior QB had one of his worst days as a Gamecock. His final line was 8-of-20 for 83 yards, and he wasn't able to find a rhythm all day.
He didn't return after Thompson took over, left to sit on the sidelines and ponder the loss for a full half before the game was over.
South Carolina Special Teams: F
Although kicker Adam Yates had a nice game with two long field goals, the story of the game was the inability of the Gamecocks to even possess the ball in the first half.
With Sanders and Byrd coughing it up in a matter of seconds, South Carolina didn't even have a chance to make a dent in the Florida defense. To make matters worse, the Florida punting game was on point, and Will Muschamp's team dominated this matchup.
Florida TE/RB/WRs Jordan Reed and Trey Burton: B+
Both are the new-age versions of Aaron Hernandez in this Florida offense. Florida lines them up all over the field, and each had an impact on the offensive production.
Jordan Reed finished with two touchdowns, while Trey Burton ran QB sets and was a running back at times for the Gators. Each will be called upon to create mismatches in this Florida game plan, because each are bigger and just as fast as their SEC counterparts in open space.
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore: C-
Where was Lattimore today? Although he was active and gained 13 yards on three carries, he didn't contribute anything else to this offense that would have helped in the end.
Attribute it partially to his injury, but Lattimore was a non-factor this week. Whether or not he's still feeling the effects of his ACL injury are unknown, but he doesn't look anything like the running back we saw as a freshman.
Florida gets Georgia and Missouri in consecutive weeks at home in Gainesville, before two weeks against FCS-level competition. They'll battle longtime rival Florida State in the final week of the season, in a game that could have BCS implications.
South Carolina faces a near-impossible task of winning over voters the next few weeks, as they still have Arkansas and Clemson and two losses on the season. It's not impossible for them to make a BCS bowl, but they'll need help, and this embarrassing loss completely negates any credibility from their big win over Georgia.