Defense not bitter at offense


Florida's Dominique Easley helps teammate Lerentee McCray up during the first half against Georgia at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.

When a team’s offense is turning the ball over and struggling to get first downs, it can create great frustration and angst for the defense. It also can create some friction between offense and defense.

The Florida offense put its defense in peril time after time against Georgia this past Saturday, turning the ball over six times and failing to sustain drives in the 17-9 loss.

But if it created any frustration and angst for the defense, it didn’t show. The defense kept playing hard, kept getting stops, kept the Gators in the game.

Kept having the offense’s back.

And if the loss to the Bulldogs has created any divisiveness between offense and defense, it’s certainly not apparent to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

“I think that’s one of the things you notice,” Quinn said. “People ask me a lot of times, ‘What’s kind of different from last year to this year?’ One of the first things I usually say is our team is pretty well connected. That being in the locker room, you can tell the players are really for each other.

“I think when you have a team that’s like that, connected both offensively and defensively, you are basically saying to the other guy, ‘I’m in here with you. I’ll do it.’

“Those kind of divisive problems that you’re mentioning don’t creep up as much on a team that stays connected. When you have a team that is easily fractured, then I think those situations likely happen more.”

The Gators certainly were feeling wounded after the loss to Georgia that prevented UF from clinching the Eastern Division. But the players haven’t seemed or sounded fractured by it. The offensive players haven’t shied away from accepting responsibility for the loss this week.

They’ve also been quick to praise their defense.

“Yeah, they were put in some tough spots,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “We put them in some spots where their backs were against the wall, and they still stepped up and got some huge turnovers and some stops.

“They’ve been playing like that all year long. Like we’ve been saying, that’s a great defense and we’ve just got to give them a chance.”

Driskel was responsible for four of the six turnovers. His first — a fumble on the game’s opening possession — led to Georgia’s first touchdown. The Bulldogs also turned a turnover into three points, so 10 of their 17 points came off of turnovers.

“Our defense did a good job,” senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. said. “We put them in bad spots. We turned the ball over and Georgia was pretty much already in the red zone and in field goal range.

“If we don’t turn the ball over and flip the field and punt it, the defense is on the other side of the field, and that’s definitely a better situation for them. So, it’s just limiting the turnovers and creating bad field position (for the opposing offense).”

In defense of the offense, the Gators had turned the ball over only four times heading into the Georgia game. The offense, however, has put some stress on the defense at times with its inconsistent play, especially in the passing game.

While the growth of the offense has been sporadic since the nearly flawless second half at Tennessee, the defense has shown steady progress over the course of the season.

This is a defense the Gators can rely on — and will rely on the rest of the season while the offense continues to work on its deficiencies.

The Georgia game is a good example. Despite being put in many difficult situations by the turnovers, the Gators limited the Georgia offense to 17 points and 273 total yards. The Bulldogs came into the game averaging 39.6 points and 486.9 yards a game.

“The things I’ve been pleased with, when you watch our tape, you’d say that’s a physical (defense). They play with toughness,” Quinn said. “I think that shows more at the line of scrimmage. We’re doing a better job of tackling. Those two things were big areas of concern for us (coming into the season).

“Are you playing your best football as you need it the most here toward the end? That’s certainly the goal. At practice, guys are working hard at it. They’re working on their skills, and I’m seeing those guys improve.”

Quinn said he’s coached on teams where divisiveness between the offense and defense has been an issue. He said he’s not seeing that with this team.

“Usually, when you have a team that cares about each other and playing together, things are going pretty well,” he said. “I think that’s an important point that you shouldn’t miss.

“Each year is different. Why is that? How does the locker room affect how the team is? I think that’s an important lesson for us to remember.”

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