Young linemen step up, Bullard, Fowler help stop Tigers
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.
Florida freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard played Saturday's game against Missouri with a heavy heart.
Bullard had returned home to his native Shelby, N.C., on Friday to visit his grandmother, who is gravely ill.
“Whatever he needed, he knew we were there,” Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd said. “We just gave him our respect for coming back and playing the game for us. That's hard to lose a family member, especially if you're so close to her.”
Florida received big contributions from both Bullard and freshman Dante Fowler Jr. in its 14-7 win over Missouri. The duo combined for eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
The Gators needed both Fowler and Bullard to step up with senior defensive lineman Lerentee McCray out with an ankle injury.
“It's special just to see how much they've grown from the time they first got here,” Florida senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter said. “They're starting to really learn this system, this defense, and it's special watching those two guys out there competing.”
Fowler forced Missouri quarterback James Franklin into an intentional grounding penalty for a sack. Bullard broke through the middle of Missouri's line for one sack and teamed with Dominique Easley for another one.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said both five-star recruits needed to adjust to the mental intensity of college football earlier this season.
“It's very difficult for a freshman to walk into a situation at a place like Florida to really contribute and play quality, quality snaps,” Muschamp said. “And both of those guys … I think the older guys have done a great job with them. They've made them accountable to learn what to do and how to do it and they've understood the mental intensity you've got to play with, the way we play.”
The message that the upperclassmen have given Fowler and Bullard — don't mope over bad plays and play hard each snap.
“They add a lot to our defense and they are going to do great things for this program,” Floyd said. “I was excited to have them out there, just listening to hear how they react to big situations and the mental approach they take to it.”
It was a big day for the entire UF defensive front. The Gators finished with four sacks and eight quarterback hurries, mostly with just a four-man rush. Bullard finished with three of the eight hurries.
“It was big,” Hunter said. “Guys in the secondary could cover down on the field and not have to worry about the quarterback. It was big just to get the pressure with the four-man rush.”