Turnovers lead to UF win

Florida Gators linebacker Michael Taylor tackles Kentucky Wildcats tailback Raymond Sanders III during the first half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 38-0. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 7:11 p.m.

Like the rest of his defensive teammates, Florida sophomore linebacker Michael Taylor was made aware the importance of forcing more turnovers this season.

“(The coaches) have emphasized so much turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, interceptions,” Taylor said. “You get tired of hearing about it. You want to do something about it.”

Florida did something about it Saturday against Kentucky. Taking advantage of Kentucky backup quarterback Morgan Newton, Florida had three first-half interceptions in its 38-0 win over the Wildcats at The Swamp.

Taylor, Safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders and cornerback Jaylen Watkins all picked off Newton passes in the second quarter. Watkins returned his interception 26 yards for a touchdown, extending UF’s lead to 17-0.

“Anytime you are able to score on defense, you create a huge momentum swing,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

Watkins said he knew the pass was coming when he jumped an inside route for his first career interception and TD.

.”I saw it over and over again on film,” Watkins said. “I just kept watching last night. It was pretty obvious.”

Newton started in place sophomore Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith, who sat out the game with a shoulder injury. But the Gators were familiar with Newton because he started in last season’s Florida 48-10 win in Lexington, Ky.

It was more bluegrass blues for Newton against a revamped Florida secondary. Loucheiz Purifoy started in place of Roberson at cornerback, opposite Watkins. Saunders, in his second game back from a two-game suspension, started at nickleback.

Muschamp said as the game wore on, he told defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to drop more players back in coverage with a four-man rush. Taylor’s interception late in the second quarter came in a zone coverage.

Florida forced just 14 turnovers last season. Through four games this season, the Gators have forced seven turnovers.

“It’s a huge emphasis for our team,” Muschamp said. “Dan does it better than anyone else in the country. He spends more time showing film, showing ways to strip the ball, thinking about that and I think we’re making progress.”

The turnovers helped Florida post its first shutout in an SEC game since blanking Mississippi State 52-0 in 2001.

Asked if the shutout was more satisfying than the three interceptions, Taylor said: “You always want a donut. If they can’t score on you … I’m gonna say donut. I’m gonna go with the no points.”

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