Gator D sealing the deal


Florida linebacker Ryan Stamper (41) and safety Will Hill take down South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.

Tricia Coyne/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, November 16, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 at 5:39 p.m.

This isn't like a year ago, when the Florida Gators were putting away opponents in the first half or early in the third quarter. Now, the outcome is usually in doubt heading into the fourth quarter.

But the Gators seem fine with that.

Because one thing that has not been in doubt in the second half is the Florida defense. The Gators have been securing victories with slam-dunk defensive performances in the second half.

UF coach Urban Meyer revealed Monday just how dominating the UF defense has been, especially in the fourth quarter.

Meyer threw out some impressive numbers at his weekly news conference.

"Twelve of our 17 interceptions have come in the second half," Meyer said. "Twenty of 29 sacks have come in the second half. We've held four SEC opponents to five yards or less rushing in the fourth quarter. Unbelievable. We have held five of 10 opponents to (less than) 100 total yards in the second half.

"In the last three games, rushing yardage (allowed) in the fourth quarter is minus-two, passing yards 39. Total yards given up in the fourth quarter, 37. That almost takes your breath away. When you see something like that, it just tells you about the relentless pursuit and play of our defense."

The defense has never been more relentless (or impressive) this season than it was this past Saturday night at South Carolina.

With UF clinging to a 17-14 lead at the end of the third quarter, the defense came up with a game-changing play (Justin Trattou's interception and 53-yard return) on the first snap of the fourth quarter, then completely overwhelmed the South Carolina offense the rest of the way in a 24-14 victory over the Gamecocks.

In the fourth quarter, the defense intercepted two passes, sacked USC quarterback Stephen Garcia four times and held the Gamecocks to minus-20 yards of offense. USC managed only 41 total yards in the second half and had five three-and-outs.

"(Doing that) in the SEC. Wow," Meyer said.

Meyer said the defense has been so strong in the second half for two main reasons: adjustments made at halftime by the coaching staff, and the leadership and depth on defense.

"(The offense) settles down and we make our adjustments," Meyer said. "That's part of it. The other part is leadership on defense is pretty strong right now with (Brandon) Spikes and the boys. And we've got a good rotation going. I don't want to forget that.

"In 2006, we had a great defense but only four d-linemen basically, maybe five. Now, we have a rotation going with the linebackers, safeties and defensive linemen. We're fresh in the second half."

And it's showing.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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