UF capitalizes on mistakes
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 10:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 10:35 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida coaches have preached since the beginning of the season the importance of forcing more turnovers.
Turnovers again played a big role in UF’s 37-26 win over rival Florida State. Florida’s ball-hawking defense and special teams forced five FSU turnovers, which led to big momentum swings during the course of the game.
Overall, the Gators won the turnover margin 5-1.
“It’s critical,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “That’s why our season has turned around this year, the turnover margin. It’s totally flipped, totally different for our team.”
The biggest turnover came in the fourth quarter. With Florida trailing 20-16, defensive end Lerentee McCray and freshman linebacker Antonio Morrison converged on scrambling FSU quarterback EJ Manuel. Morrison delivered a wallop, jarring the ball loose from Manuel and temporarily knocking him out of the game. Florida defensive end Dominique Easley recovered the fumble and returned it a yard to the FSU 37-yard line.
“That’s a big-time play, a big-time hit,” Florida defensive lineman Omar Hunter said of Morrison. “He forced that turnover. He does it every day in practice. He might make a mistake, but he will be physical.”
On the next play, Florida senior running back Mike Gillislee rushed 37 yards for a touchdown, putting the Gators ahead to stay 23-20. Overall, Florida scored 14 points off turnovers. Gillislee scored on a 9-yard TD run in the first half after Florida linebacker Darrin Kitchens forced a fumble on special teams, jarring the ball loose from FSU kick returner Karlos Williams. Jabari Gorman recovered the fumble for UF at the FSU 21-yard line.
Florida also got interceptions from Matt Elam, Marcus Roberson and Jelani Jenkins.
“That’s something that we strive to do every game, get at least three (turnovers), at least three,” said Jenkins, who left the game with a foot injury. “We put a big emphasis on it in practice. Experience helps a lot because we are always where we need to be and we’re ready to make those plays.
“We have a great game plan every week and I think the coaches help with that, too, get us where we need to be to make those plays.”
Florida finished the regular season plus-17 in turnover margin. The Gators have forced 29 turnovers, while committing just 12. Of those 12 turnovers, six came in UF’s lone loss of the season against Georgia.
Florida was minus-12 in turnover margin last season.
“It was huge to get some turnovers against a good Florida State team,” Hunter said. “EJ Manuel is a great quarterback … to shut someone like that down is not easy. I’m so proud of this defense and this team.”