Gator reserves have stepped up for injured teammates

Florida quarterback Austin Appleby and center T.J. McCoy took over for injured starters last Saturday and played key roles in the Gators’ 20-7 win over South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (Matt Stamey/Correspondent) After center Tyler Jordan went down with an injury Saturday, followed shortly thereafter by starting left tackle David Sharpe, leaving Florida three starters shy on the offensive line, there was no panic in the huddle. Instead, there was a sense of calm, and it exuded from quarterback Austin Appleby, a replacement player himself.

“He said, ‘Come on. We’re good. We’re fine. It’s time to go,” sophomore guard Fred Johnson said.

And off the Gators went. On offense. And on defense, where the injury situation was even worse, with five starters missing by the second half against South Carolina.

The Gators always talk about man down, man up — and carry on. But it’s gotten a little ridiculous as of late. In the past two games (Arkansas and South Carolina) Florida has lost nine starters to injuries.

With that kind of attrition, a dropoff in play and production is usually a given. And, yet, there appeared to be little of either in the 20-7 win over South Carolina. The Gators didn’t just survive. They put together an overall solid team performance with the nine starters down — four on offense, five on defense.

“We had a lot of really good plays by a lot of young guys. That’s what they came here to do,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “They came here to play and I think they played at a real high level. I was really proud of them.

“I think that really shows we’re growing up as an organization. We’ve got some guys that really want to play."

The area on offense hit hardest is the line, where the Gators found themselves down three starters for most of the USC game.

Center Cam Dillard injured his knee a week earlier and was replaced by Jordan, who moved over from right guard. Jordan was replaced at guard by Johnson.

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