Notebook: UF defense pitches shutout


Gamecock running back Washaun Ealey is tackled during the second half of the Gators' 23-0 win against Jacksonville State November 17, 2012 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. (Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.

On the first offensive play of Saturday's game, it looked like Louisiana-Lafayette all over again for the Florida football team.

Enlarge

Gamecock running back Washaun Ealey is tackled during the second half of the Gators' 23-0 win against Jacksonville State November 17, 2012 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. (Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun

Jacksonville State receiver Kevyn Cooper caught a sideline pass and was met by UF defensive backs Marcus Roberson and Matt Elam after six yards. Cooper, however, kept his balance as he rolled over Roberson's back and then rumbled ahead for 70 more yards.

The Gamecocks had first-and-goal at Florida's 7-yard line and all the momentum, but the Gators stood their ground and forced a 25-yard field goal attempt, which was missed wide left.

UF coach Will Muschamp was proud of his defense for stepping up in that predicament.

“The first play of the game, we made some things interesting,” Muschamp said. “You need to play well regardless of your opponent, where you're playing, when you're playing, what time you're playing and what the weather is.

“I think that's something our guys learned last year. When adversity struck, we kind of panicked a little bit at times. We didn't always handle that very well. We've got a very strong mental group (now). They have a good resolve, which is what you want defensively.”

After that first play, Florida's defense gave up only 166 yards for the rest of the game and just 38 in the final two quarters. The unit also held Jacksonville State to 4-of-16 on third downs, including five consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half.

The Gators lead the SEC and rank in the top-five nationally in third-down conversion percentage on defense.

“Third down is the money down, and to be that good on third down is great,” UF senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “That's great for your team and it gives the offense more possessions during the game. We take great pride in that.”

Florida also registered its second shutout this season. Dating back to Nov. 18, 2000 against Troy, it was the first time in 133 games that the Gamecocks were held scoreless.

“When there's a goose egg on the board, that's a fun thing to see,” Roberson said. “It felt good.”

Injury update

Muschamp said fullback Hunter Joyer (thigh) and offensive lineman Chaz Green (ankle) should be fine from injuries sustained in Saturday's game.

He announced offensive lineman Ian Silberman suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in practice and will have surgery next week, forcing him to miss the spring.

As for quarterback Jeff Driskel, who sprained his right ankle in last week's game, Muschamp said he's improving but still hasn't been cleared to practice.

“I think (the ankle) is much better than it was,” he said. “He's off crutches and he's not in a walking boot or a brace anymore, so we'll see how it progresses through the week. I'll probably know a little more Monday and then certainly more Wednesday about where he is.”

Muschamp also said safety Pop Saunders will be out next week and the bowl game with the knee injury that was announced last Monday. However, Saunders was seen sprinting out of the tunnel Saturday and appeared fine.

Sources told The Sun that Saunders is being disciplined for a violation of team rules.

Bittersweet for Peek

It was a bittersweet Senior Day for walk-on Scott Peek.

He switched from linebacker to fullback before this season and said Joyer taught him a lot about the position.

When he was injured Saturday, Peek felt some mixed emotions on the sidelines.

“That was crazy,” Peek said. “I never want to see anyone get hurt, especially someone like Hunter who's helped me so much.

“But when I knew he was going to be fine, I was really happy to get the opportunity to go in there and play as much as I did. It really was a dream come true. I couldn't believe it. It was a perfect way to end my last home game in The Swamp.”

Sturgis closing in

Saturday was the fourth time this year where kicker Caleb Sturgis has hit three field goals in a game.

Now at 66 for his career, he's one away from tying Jeff Chandler for the most field goals made in school history.

Sturgis said he's not worried about breaking the record and just wants to finish his senior season strong.

“I'm not done playing yet,” he said, “so I won't really think about it until after I'm done.”

After Sturgis made his third field goal against Jacksonville State, Chandler tweeted, “Go get it 19. Proud.”

Muschamp reiterated his belief that Sturgis is the best kicker in the country.

“My confidence in him is through the roof,” Muschamp said. “He's outstanding. We're trying to find an extra year of eligibility.”

Etc.

The announced crowd for Saturday's game was 82,691. … Will Muschamp became the third Florida coach to record 10 wins in his second season as head coach. Steve Spurrier won 10 games in 1991 and Urban Meyer won 13 in 2006.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top