Gators working to get back to being dominant on defense

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LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) carries for 57 yards in the first half Saturday against Florida in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

 On Saturday night, sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson called the performance unacceptable. On Monday, Florida’s defensive players sat down with their coaches and watched the tape of it, and it turned out to be more than just unacceptable.

 “Kind of disgusting,” senior defensive tackle Adam Shuler said. “We know we’re better than that. We know there were a lot of mistakes. We really didn’t get out physicaled. Just stupid things. So you’ve got to be hard on yourself at first, but it’s out the window now.”

 Disgusting seems to be an appropriate term to describe the performance against LSU, especially considering the high defensive standard the Gators pride themselves in playing up to.

 The numbers say it all: 42 points allowed, 511 total yards, 10.6 yards a play, plays of 57, 54, 36, 33, 25 and 19 yards surrendered, 0 sacks, 0 quarterback hurries, 1 tackle for loss, 0 turnovers.

 Yep, kind of disgusting.

 And hard to watch. But the Gators did.

 “We have to go back and look at all of our mistakes in order to get better,” junior safety Donovan Stiner said. “In order to clean something up you have to acknowledge it. That’s not our standard and we didn’t like the way we played, obviously, but we want to fix it.

 “We didn’t like how we played, clearly. It makes us more hungry, and I think we want to get out there and prove that’s not what it will be (for the rest of the season).”

 In the defensive plan to win that the Gators try to follow every game, they had complete failure trying to carry out two of the most important assignments: stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback.

 The Tigers gutted the Gators on the ground, and UF, playing most of the game without starting ends Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, never laid a finger on quarterback Joe Burrow.

 As a result, the Tigers sailed up and down the field all night, getting little resistance from a disappearing Florida defense.

 “When we go into games we always say we have to be hard to run against and we’ve got to affect the quarterback, and we didn’t do that so we didn’t win the game,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “If you go back and look when we did that this year, we’ve won games. We didn’t do that. We didn’t win the game.”

 The extent of the porous performance is stunning because the Gators were coming off a dominant effort against Auburn, where they shut down the Tigers in both phases and forced four turnovers.

 Going into the LSU game, the defense knew it likely would give up some explosive plays in the passing game because that’s what the LSU offense has been doing to everybody. What the Gators did not expect was to get burned by big plays on the ground, which they did.

  “I actually thought we played the run a little bit better in the second half than the first,” Grantham said. “It was really more just about gap control and then as the off-the-ball players just fitting your gap. And when you get a talented guy and give him a crease, he can create explosive plays, and that’s what they did. We need to make sure we eliminate that for this week.”

 LSU’s success on the ground kept the Tigers out of obvious passing situations. Burrow took advantage of that, standing comfortably in the pocket with little or no pressure from the UF front, he completed 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. 

 The loss of Greenard and Zuinga — UF’s best pass rushers — obviously had some impact on the lack of pressure.

 “It’s a big loss when they’re not out there,” Stiner said. “We can’t let the quarterback get comfortable so those guys always make sure he’s uncomfortable for us and that in turn helps the DBs because the balls have to get out quicker and stuff like that.”

 Grantham downplayed the injuries.

 “You always like to be full tilt, but you never can use injuries as an excuse, it’s part of the game,” he said. “We have good players behind them. We’ve always taken the approach ever since I’ve been here, next man up. We’ve had injuries every year. It’s just a part of it. You just next man up and  you’ve got to find ways to make plays and win games.”

 The Gators failed to do that Saturday night. Now, they’ve seen the tape, gone over the mistakes they made, and are making corrections.

 It’s time to burn the tape and move on.

 “They’re kids, man. They’re ready to roll,” Grantham said. “When we’ve won this year we were hard to run on and we affected the quarterback. When we didn’t do that on Saturday we didn’t play the way we wanted to. It’s just a matter of understanding we need to be exact in what we want and make sure we’re all on the same page and make plays.

 “As a group, all of us, we’ve got to play better, coach better and get ready to play this week, because we’ve got a big game.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. 3 points… 1. Where is Cox at on eligibility? Because ”Cox was the No. 11 prospect overall in the 2018 ESPN 300 and the No. 5 defensive end nationally and No. 3 prospect in Georgia.” -Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer. As Florida could use Cox (now more than ever) with Florida’s starting D.E.’s ankles on the mend.

    2. ”These Gators have been dominant in the fourth quarter, beating the opposition 57-7.” -Gatorsports.com. And suddenly and shockingly, the 4th quarter is where Florida’s defense couldn’t ”get it done” against L.S.U.

    3. WHAT THE HELL’S UP WITH FLORIDA’S DEFENDERS ”dancing with the L.S.U. BLOCKERS?”
    Has D.C. Grantham ever taught a middle school and high school drill (yes, I played both) ”SHED THE BLOCKER.” (Live and learn, pray tell!) Anyway, as always, Go Gators! Just win baby!

  2. This is not a championship team with that mentality. Champions don’t all of a sudden forget and move away from what they know to be their MO for success. I’m sure the O line appreciates all of the attention shifted to the schizophrenic D.

    On another note, am I the only one that is sick and tired of reading or hearing these college MEN continuously referred to as “kids”? It is really nauseating.

    Go Gators – eat mo chiken.

  3. Agree about the Kids but remember to those coaches they are kids, big difference in age. I disagree about the Champ mentality.
    Plane and simple, LSU was a much better team than Auburn and we had one of our fantastic Ends against Auburn and thats all we needed. Our 2 ends are players of the week, sunday kind of guys , and sorry, you dont just next man up, replace 2 guys like that! there is a very good reason most college players dont end up playing on sunday.Miss 2 phenominal Ends against a much better team and the LSU game is what you get. Guarantee that if both guys played all game there would have been a much different outcome. we may still have lost but it would have been close. Right now LSU is a much more complete team on both sides of the ball. I think its a statement that we hung around as long as we did with no run game and no starting ends. just goes to show you what a fantastic , clutch QB we have, he kept us in the game until Mullen blew it and wasted a drive using Jones. We had to score on that drive and Jones showed, right there that he isnt in the same league with Trask! Even the announcers couldnt believe Mullen kept jones in the drive while his hot hand QB that just scored, rode the bench!

    • I said at the half, when it was tied 21-21 and we had just traded touchdowns 1:1 for 30 minutes that the first team to get separation for more than 2 or 3 possessions would win by two touchdowns. On the assumption that our defense would recover and adjust for the next 30 minutes, I figured that it would be us. But they didn’t and it wasn’t. Had it, while LSU might have indeed been the better team I still believe we would have won the game.

      Mullen probably did pull a boner last Saturday, but in the words of our old and departed pal SpringHillPhil, he’ll choke the chicken this Saturday for sure.