After tail kicking, Gators work to correct lapse on defense

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson runs past Florida defensive end Zachary Carter (17) and other defensive players for a 24-yard touchdown during the second half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has a simple and succinct explanation for why the Florida defense got gutted for 303 yards rushing in the loss to Kentucky on Saturday night.

“No. 1, we got our tails kicked, OK?” he said. “You can’t hide that.”

No you can’t. It was out there, live and on national television, for all to see — Kentucky’s offensive linemen manhandling Florida’s defensive front all night long.

Along with being in a physical mismatch, there was other bad stuff also going on for the Gators that contributed: players losing discipline and getting out of their gaps; linemen, linebackers and defensive backs all missing tackles; the defensive ends and outside linebackers giving up the edge and letting UK quarterback Terry Wilson scramble for big plays.

The result was 175 yards rushing on 27 carries for Benny Snell Jr., 105 on 10 carries for Wilson and 23 on four carries for Asim Rose.

It all adds up to 303 yards rushing and 7.4 yards a carry.

By UF’s high defensive standards, giving up 100 yards rushing is poor, 200 in unacceptable and 303, well, that is a downright disaster.

“We always talk about playing to a standard and playing to an identity. We didn’t do that,” Grantham said. “We always talk about stopping the run and affecting the quarterback. We didn’t do either one and didn’t give ourselves a chance to win because of that.

“The biggest thing is just looking for solutions, and the thing with that is there’s a certain physicality you’ve got to play with up front. You’ve got to be able to set the edge. You’ve got to be able to strike blockers.”

When the Gators weren’t getting physically overpowered by a stronger UK front, mental errors were taking them out of position to make plays.

Linemen got out of their gaps, allowing Snell to cut back and find openings. And the edge players failed to contain Wilson in the pocket when he started to scramble around, letting him break outside to an open field.

“You’ve got to trust that, ‘I’m going to stay in my gap and the other guy’s going to be in his gap,’ ” Grantham said. “When you start freelancing, you create seams. That’s something we’ve got to work on as we move forward.

“It really gets down to securing your gap and doing what you’re supposed to do and making sure that you’re where you need to be. That’s the biggest thing.

“Hey, look, if somebody hits a play, they hit a play. But the key thing is to play in a consistent basis. You’ve got to play consistently four quarters. You’ve got to play with effort and energy, but you’ve also got to be able to do things on a consistent basis.”

In the 27-16 loss, the UF defensive front wasn’t tough enough or strong enough to hang with the Wildcats. That’s a troubling sign, as the Gators prepare to enter the heart of their SEC schedule, where they will be facing some offensive fronts that are more physical than Kentucky’s.

It’s an issue the Gators have started addressing on the practice field this week.

UF coach Dan Mullen has said the Gators need to be tougher and more physical in practice, and that’s been the approach.

“You practice,” Grantham said. “You get better during practice. You’ve got to continue to develop yourself and play with the effort and energy that we talk about. Then you’ll get better. It’s really about finishing the play. Finish the play. Tackling, finish your job.

“I like our guys’ approach. We just have to keep working. There’s a fine line between being really good and not being where you want to be. We’ve just got to continue to work to do the things that you have to do to be a good defense.”

The Gators certainly will be working on their tackling this week. They missed 20 tackles against Kentucky that led to 168 yards in UK gains.

It’s an issue that junior defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson addressed with his teammates during Saturday’s game.

“I spoke to the defense at halftime and at the end of the game,” he said. “They came in here and slapped us in the mouth. We’ve got to respond.

“As leaders of this team, we’ve got to go in and we’ve got to dial in and practice and do what we need to do because we can’t change the outcome. You’ve got to go in and get ready for this week.”



  1. So the discussion going around is we don’t have talent due to bad recruiting over the last few years. I have a hard time believing that is the cause. All of the kids on the squad seem to have impressive enough credentials. Lack of consistency in direction (coaching, administration, etc.) I believe are our major obstacles that the coaching staff are trying to overcome. I think we got the right group with Mullen and his staff. Go Gators, get mean!

    • You are right, it isn’t recruiting and this isn’t mcelwains fault. For the people who say it recruiting, find me one season where Kentucky had a better class than Florida. This is a problem with culture and it goes all the way back to the demise of Urban Meyer. Kentucky has finished no higher than 30th in recruiting the last four years. They simply do not have more talent than Florida. They have more character.

      • There are lots of theories in this thread so I’ll throw mine out there as well. Mine is similar to LT’s. I don’t think it’s recruiting, McElwain, or any of the previous coaches, or strength and conditioning. I’ll go further and disagree with LT in that it’s not the culture, or Urban Meyer. That is not to say all those aren’t important variables in a winning formula. However, I think the biggest variable is continuity and stability of the head coach. The frequent turnover of the head coaches and to a lesser extent the position coaches are momentum killers. Talent alone can mask some of the issues but a team that is on the same page with great execution will be tough to beat even with superior talent and coaches. Every team has issues and it changes every year. A returning coach can adjust fire as necessary to fix an issue in less time. A new coach with new assistants will require much more time to solve the problems starting with implementing and teaching their new system.

        • And hence the cycle we keep ourselves in. Nicely thought out, Sly. And just when I threw the towel in on LT and agreed with TampaGator that he’s a troll, he comes in talking about the character of a team — which I think is a principle component here.

          LT, you’re an enigma, son!

          • Gator 6. You are an enigma as well if you agree with LT, and LT IS absolutely a troll. Character is not an issue with this Florida team, at least not concerning execution on the football field. Some of the players have made bad choices, however. But that is not reflective of this team as a whole. Not at all. But I do think Sly is dead on with what he posted. And Mullen needs time to get this thing going in the right direction again. The Kentucky loss might end up being a positive instead of a negative for the Florida football program long term, although a negative last Saturday night. It seems the positive CHARACTER of this team is stepping up as a result of the loss to Kentucky and may be more focused on technique execution in upcoming games, hopefully starting this coming Saturday night. If Florida loses to Colorado State (which is a current possibility based on the Kentucky effort), Mullen might make a quicker transition to his players from McElwain’s players faster than he might have wanted to do.

          • I’ve never been called an enigma before, so I guess there’s a first time for everything. I have been called everything else in the book, but not that.

            I think character absolutely has a lot to do with what we are witnessing here, but like every other problem on the face of the earth, it’s multi-determined. At the close of the business day, it’s just a matter of perspective I imagine.

  2. Beat Tennessee, just ’cause! Beat Vandy, ’cause it’s ‘”Vandy.” And then you fellas are on pace to tie last year’s conf. wins. Anything more than that, and we’ll all applaud you in the Florida Football program.
    I’m guilty of expecting more than U.F. Football can give. I grew up in the 70’s, but I became a man in the 90’s. And therefore, I am STILL SPOILED by STEVE SPURRIER, so sue me!

      • LOL. Gator-6, ”levity” is a good thing, and so is ”serendipity.”
        And I fear it will only be ”by chance” that U.F. wins 7 or more games this year or next, unfortunately. But I am ”guilty” of expecting too much from Florida’s ”student-athletes and coaching staff” so…

        • We are all guilty of expecting to much. I really thought we would be very……good? Well, so much for blind hope and prayer. I think the truth of the matter is we aren’t as good as we hoped and now we aren’t as bad as we fear. Go Gators and while you are at it, kick some butt.

  3. I agree practice like its game day, but that doesn’t account for being physically whipped on both sides of the line. This was to be a stronger, faster, better group based on the new S & C coach. Folks, we got pushed around all night long. This was UK. They are not the calibre of LSU, or UGA, or Auburn. And yet it was like a college team beating up a high school team. Is it possible our team was so weak by the previous staff that our current S & C staff can’t make up for it over the spring and fall? I’m thinking if we got pushed around by UK, what will the other big teams do to us? Basketball season can’t get here soon enough…

  4. “We got our tails kicked” or “take our whoopin” and the one that I cringe at, “we’re going to continue to improve.” Ya know, you gotta figure that a coach with 9 years experience in the SEC has an understanding of how physical this conference is. I mean, even Muschamp knew this was a “line of scrimmage league.” He never had enough lineman, but he knew it. Now, Mullen says we have to be more physical. Didn’t he know this in the spring? I’d have more respect for Mullen, or any coach for that matter to just come out and say, “look, we aren’t very good. We’re not an SEC caliber team. Our players know it. I know it. They don’t know what they’re doing and quite frankly, I have the same concerns about the coaches we have here now.” Now THAT would send a wake up call throughout the program. Hell, I volunteer to give that motivational speech. I’ll let several offensive lineman know that my mom can block better than them and she’s dead. I’ll lean her up in the way. At least they’d have to run around her instead of our lineman just moving out of the way!!

    Bottom line: in order to be physical, you have to want to hit somebody. In order to hit somebody, you have to want to. In order to want to, you have to have the desire. All three are lacking.

    • “…look, we aren’t very good. We’re not an SEC caliber team.” -Grump E. Gator.
      Well, Grump E. Gator, I feel ya! But only 1, count ’em, ONE Head Coach at U.F. would’ve been so ”blatantly honest”, and his name is “Steve Spurrier.” Otherwise, the NEW U.F. FOOTBAL COACHES, Mac, Mullen, etc… will surly get asked by BIG $$$ Boosters, ”Then why the hell did we pay you MILLIONS OF DOLLARS per year?”

      • In fact, SOS had no trouble saying it at all. From a coach like him, that was indeed all the motivation needed. In this modern era of feeling instead of thinking, I must admit that Grump does have a point. The only difference is that I trust Coach Mullen to know exactly when to drop that hammer.

      • Agree with Grump E. Imo, all the great coaches, Spurrier, Bear Bryant, Saban, Lombardi, Parcells, etc, were all tough disciplinarians, and would have a much stronger on field and post game reaction to Saturday’s performance, which is part of what frustrates many of us. I get that Mullin is apparently more cerebral than I thought he’d be. But damn, does this guy ever get angry and throw a visor, or get in a player’s grill or what? The lack of emotional intensity has me a bit worried, as it seemed to carry over to the players.

        • BINGO! alum84. Hit the nail on the head. The players are playing like the coach is acting! I saw a good coach, Mark Richt for years never get out of his players their talent level because he acted the same way, no passion thus no motivation. I hope that isnt what we have here. I for one was shocked at Mullen’s reaction to the loss, at his players and to the media. I also thought, he seems as shocked as us or he doesnt care , but I expected WAAAY more passion over the loss, he was instead, Ho Hum! He sees them in practice every day, how could he not know and if they didnt have the intensity why wasnt he doing anything about it? I would have had myself and the assistants chewing them out and riding their backs every practice till they got it! I was also shocked that no media person presented that question to him, didnt he see this in practice and why hadnt he done anything about it!

    • Grump E, do you know what’s being said to these players behind closed doors? I’m pretty sure no one outside the program does. Assuming these coaches aren’t doing everything they can to motivate and teach these players how to succeed is a little bit ridiculous. You act like they just don’t care and are accepting it. It truly is amazing how quickly you’ve jumped ship.

    • Grump. The assistant coaches are the same coaches that were with Mullen at MSU. They seemed to know how to coach there and they know how to coach here. But most of these players are McElwain’s recruits and I can see that many have not bought into the difference between Mullen and McElwain, which is mostly personal responsibility both on and off the field. When these players fully buy in to what Mullen is selling and teaching, then they will start to improve. It is clear that some have not and this is not a cohesive unit of a team. But Mullen will get it done, be it with these players or with players he eventually gets on campus to do things the right and best way. Looking forward to that day. I am sure Mullen has already decided which players he does not want on his team next year and I expect many will be gone after this season ends and Mullen will have more room to bring in more of his type of players.

      • Im sorry, ive seen great coaches come in and make a difference immediately because they wont accept less and will be chewing guys out that arent putting forth great effort . Plus they also make sure to teach proper technique and chew guys out that fail to do as told. Do you think Saban would accept what we saw on that field?

        • daz wazlle. Saban and Alabama lost to Louisiana Monroe during Saban’s first year. Kentucky is better than that LA. Monroe team. And Mullen is not accepting what he saw on the field either. But he has a lot of work to do to correct the bad habits many of these Florida players have picked up after being so poorly coached under McElwain concerning fundamentals and techniques.

    • A couple of things Grump….first I don’t interpret Coach Mullen as having a sudden revelation about needing to be more physical, but rather him stating the obvious that the team stunk because it wasn’t more physical. Not a surprise to him….just stating what needs to change.

      Second, I agree that it would be nice to have someone just come out and say “we’re not an SEC caliber team right now”, but not many coaches will do that. Now as to the players…. I DON’T THINK THEY KNOW that they’re not an SEC caliber team. And therein lies the problem. For years they’ve not been coached and prepared to be an elite team and so they just don’t know how. THAT is the problem and will take several years to flush out the flip flop wearing lackadaisical approach and replace with a tough physical killer instinct approach.

  5. Teach Rayshad Jackson how to tackle for sure. Anybody notice his arm slinging tackles. I think he threw the RB ahead each time for most of those yards. Three like in one quarter. I know he has to hit somebody. Someone on defense please hit someone like Spikes used to.

  6. The missing ingredient was the want-to. I was there, and before the “missed” field goal the defense wasn’t trying all that hard.

    Ironically, I don’t know what would have produced a worse outcome on the scoreboard – if the field goal had been called correctly the defense may have continued to play uninspired and gave up another several touchdowns.

    Hopefully the coaches can get a handle on that, or we may end up as bad as the house of horrors that seems to be playing out in Tallahassee.

  7. They were not mentally ready for the cats! Defense plays on emotion and their was not one case where I saw emotion. Reese needs to get healthy quick because that LB could not tackle. They played to the hype and failed. I heard last week that Florida has it in the bag because the cats barely beat Central Michigan and I kept saying “They have Florida on the Calendar and they want to beat the Gators” Well, they did! This was not a fluke game…they came ready and the Gators did not.

  8. The Gators have been in a self pity slump for about 7 to 8 years. As soon as they get punched in the mouth they drop there head and want there money. In the SEC you gotta be strong physically and mentally and we are not. It’s gonna be a long season and if they are not careful they will match last season win total are worse. Gators have play makers but can’t get them the ball in space which come from QB play. The defense is by far the most disappointment even in the past years when the offense was woefully the defense was great but over the past 2 years the defense lack luster have finally caught up with the offense. #disappointed gator.

  9. Franks was lost in the first quarter when the camera caught him cussing a storm walking off the field. Cats got in his head EARLY and never left. He reverted back to his true comfort zone and became a robot. Ball placement on the RPO’s was awful to watch…

  10. Tackling fundamentals is the coaches fault:
    1.they should not be tackling without their arms wrapped
    2.some that Do arm tackle, want to then roll with it and they peel right off, Dumb
    3.wrap up and stick- why the coaches don’t teach that is beyond me-so simple!

  11. Is it just me or does it look like some of our lineman may have lost too much weight. Ivey looks skinny compared to most SEC tackles. Our linebackers are also definitely too small. They were consistently being knocked backwards. We need some bigger bulkier meaner linebackers who can fill the gaps and tackle. With Wilson out for the year, the secondary is in trouble. That was clear on the touchdown pass for Kentucky where the Gators only rushed three, dropped eight back in coverage and still got beat deep. It looked like they were playing zone and the safety cannot let anyone get deeper than him on a play like that. That is pass defense 101. I am still going to the Colorado State game this weekend and I would like to see the defense get after it and the O-line get mean and nasty too. Let see some pancake blocks. It will be interesting to see who comes to play. As far as Lemons is concerned, he should have never been given a scholarship. He had obvious character issues up front. If you can’t find better players than that save the scholarship for the next year.

  12. First post and I have one question and one observation.Question: How can the Gainesville Sun sports reporters who cover this team in so much depth not see this coming before it happened. Did all of a sudden the players become bad? A true football reporter with knowledge of the game would have at least had some idea. Observation: Replay both games and only watch what Ivey does. You will be shocked and understand why the line is so bad. He does not know how to block and he is supposed to be a 5 star recruit? I am sure the same could be said of others if you concentrated on them only.

  13. i hate to be the most optimistic one all of a sudden, when during the offseason I was not in the highly optimistic camp, particularly about the linebacking situation, but every year or so our gator defense etc. puts up a stinker. we’ve had nightmares against Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Nebraska, Mississippi state, Tulsa, Syracuse, a down Alabama team about to fire mike shula, auburn and some other cringeworthy moments along the way. rarely are they at home. they have been early in the year on occasion. lets hope we just had ours. I’m not a big grantham guy, but its been years for him to have a defense play this bad in a game I believe; I still think we will get better, and should win most of our remaining games this year.

  14. Freak-o Franks is one I hope leaves the program soon.
    On the very first play Saturday he resorted back to his bad fundamentals and progressively got worst from then on.
    What quarterback on earth takes that long to release the football once he starts his big full throwing motion. They don’t even teach that in Pee-Wee football anymore.

  15. “By UF’s high defensive standards, giving up 100 yards rushing is poor, 200 in unacceptable and 303, well, that is a downright disaster.”

    When was the last time, not counting Georgia Southern in 2013, in which Florida gave up over 300 yards rushing? (I excluded Georgia Southern because they run the option and they ran the ball 54 times to only 3 pass attempts. They are an outlier.) I went back as far as 2004 (that’s as far back as data is available) and couldn’t find another game in which we gave up over 300 yards rushing.

  16. I too, got caught up with sunshine that’s been pumped up my behind all summer and the “secret reports” getting spread out of camp , of how good the recievers looked and the stud loaded RB room while as always looking through my non removable orange and blue goggles on life and like many on here had high hopes for this years team, but that was a sobering performance. I can’t believe no one has pointed out the Kentucky O lineman illegally holding who appears to be Slaton in the caption by the shoulder pads. Not that it would have made any difference because you have to have grit to fight off dirty line play and this team don’t have it ! I can’t buy in that Kentucky was more talented team. Maybe today but certainly not out of high school, Kentucky has never out recruited us nor ever will. Lack of talent is not the problem imo. I agree with Grumpy Gator in that there are deeper issues in this team that smells like cancer in the locker room and I hate to say that having a home boy as a team captain that hasn’t played a down this year. I do think that Dan is the right man for the job, but at the same time I have a hard time seeing Saban or the Urb trotting out a team that ill prepared and lethargic looking. There’s enough talent to win with but until he can stop the bleeding and quit getting owned at the LOS on both sides, any victories will be hard to come by. One game does not a season make, but if this getting physically whipped continues into our next game and even the next conference matchup, I think he may have to do a purge and just start getting the young guys some experience. Hopefully as someone already said we are not as good as we looked against Charley South and not as bad as we looked Saturday.. Nothing Greater than a Gator !

  17. What worried me was the lack of fundamentals on the D. Not setting edge, no gap containment, no wrapping up, bad angles… I’m hoping they were just so amped and sold on the “attack-style” defense that they kind of forgot their coaching. At least I heard the coaches preaching fundamentals after the game, which is more than I’ve ever heard from Mac. But to not have anything corrected by halftime means this is kind of a physical issue for the team as well that won’t be fixed in one season. I do hate when people attack these kid’s effort though, because they’re busting their tails and trying to overcome the hole Mac an company put them in. As for Mullen, take a look at the current MSU team and see how big and physical they are. Those are his boys he recruited and built up and they look twice as solid as our team. Give the man some time and he’ll put together a team for us.

  18. There was a time when Florida could just show up for a game and use their raw talent to get them by. Those days are gone. Culture is a major issue here as the team completely regressed into what they were last year. Not playing as a team, undisciplined, mental breakdowns, etc. Mullen had to be shocked at what he saw on the field, especially if it was different than practice. Kentucky was way more disciplined and focused. Now the team needs to stop thinking about Kentucky and focus on Saturday or we will all be here next week talking about how bad the performance against Colorado State was.

  19. The culture will change. One off season was not enough to turn around this broken, undisciplined, under developed team that McElwain fostered. Franks is a prime example of an undeveloped and possibly broken player. Ivey and Jefferson a prime examples of undisciplined players. I am sure we will see improvements when some of the players on our current roster are shown the door at the conclusion of the season. Mullen will turn this team around. As he gets more and more of his players on the roster we will see the change.

  20. Here’s what is really unnerving: Grantham’s assertion that “There is a fine line between being really good, and not being where you want to be.” In our case, there is a HUGE gap, not a fine line! If the thinking (and coaching and playing) is guided by the misconception that we have only to cross a “fine line”, we are in bigger trouble than I thought. We are not even within ICBM range of where we want to be. This is not a matter of fine tuning. Getting your “tails whipped” does not happen across a fine line. It happens when you are far inferior to the opponent in talent, technique, toughness, or all three. Pumping sunshine up the petticoats of the players is NOT going to make them better. The coaches owe it to the players and the fans to own-up to just how pathetic they really were (and I am including the coaches in this, because as much as I am a solid CDM backer, we were glaringly out-coached in both game planning/prep, and game time adjustments to what was happening on the field).

  21. My hope is that Coach Mullen will indeed take stock of which players are buying in and playing the way they are being coached and then play those players If a player can’t translate from practice to games, then I’d hope he won’t play them….regardless of their status, seniority, star rating, etc. If Coach needs to play a freshman in order to get his point across…then in my opinion you play the freshman. Maybe we’ll take a few lumps this way, but heck…we sure took a lot of lumps Saturday.

    Start flushing out the bad culture NOW!!!

  22. A note related to those concerning dispassionate, to the point of appearing detached, coaches. The caption of the photo at the head of this article reads:

    “Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson runs past Florida defensive end Zachary Carter (17) and other defensive players for a 24-yard touchdown during the second half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.”

    Who else did QB Wilson breeze by en route to the end one?

    It’s either 54 Khairi Clark, 55 Kyree Campbell, or, possibly though unlikely, 56 Tedarrell Slaton. Which one is hard to tell as the Kentucky RG is pulling him to the ground by his shoulder pads. See that UK paw coming from the underside of #5X’s right shoulder? That defender, the one being tackled, is charged with containment.

    Granted, the officiating was horrible. But maybe, just maybe, if the coaches had been riding the officials, pointing out missed calls from the beginning of the game, by the time the third quarter comes around Kentucky would have been forced to abandon these shenanigans. Instead of stepping in when only the most grievous penalties must be called, such as bringing a running back to the ground via the facemask, perhaps the officials would have been forced to at least feign an attempt to clean up play if the coaches had been player advocates on the sidelines?

    It won’t help anything if the players are the only ones that are angry. Lot’s of Spurrier references above. Anybody remember a time Spurrier hesitated to provide officials performance reviews?