UF’s defense out to defuse explosive plays

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur scrambles against Florida in the first half of the Oct. 13 game in Nashville, Tenn. Shurmur hurt UF with some explosive plays. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

For long stretches of time this season, Florida’s defense has seemingly been impenetrable, overwhelming opposing offenses with big plays, turnovers and a long succession of three-and-outs.

But time and again, just when it looks like the defense has taken over the game — boom, the opposing offense torches the defense with an explosive play (or two or three).

In the loss to Kentucky, there was the 54-yard TD pass given up on third-and-16, and a 29-yard TD pass on second-and-16 and the 24-yard TD run by the quarterback.

Early in the fourth quarter against LSU, it was a 31-yard run up the middle, followed by a 47-yard run that suddenly set up the go-ahead touchdown.

In the win at Vanderbilt two weeks ago, there was the simple screen pass that turned into a 75-yard touchdown play.

Explosive plays.

The Gators have given up their share, and they’re looking to eliminate them heading into Saturday’s SEC showdown with Georgia.

“It’s huge (that we eliminate them),” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Explosive plays usually lead to points. So, it’s a big thing.”

It’s a huge thing this week, because explosive plays are what led to the 42-7 rout at the hands of the Bulldogs a year ago.

The Gators gave up touchdown runs of 74, 45 and 39 yards.

That’s far too much explosiveness to overcome.

Middle linebacker David Reese said the Gators have to be mentally sharp this week to avoid getting burned by big plays again.

“Huge,” he said. “That’s mental. It’s all mental. As long as we know what we’ve got to do, meet extra with our coaches, we’ll be OK. It’s the type of week where you’ve really got to zone in and hit your books, really know what you have to do so you don’t second guess when you’re out there on that field.

“Even if they get that explosive play, we’ve just got to make it hard for them to score. If we’re hard to score on, we’re going to be hard to beat. Even if we give up an explosive play, we’ve got to keep our head up and don’t let them in (the end zone).”

Explosive plays — plays of 20 yards or longer — tend to be game changers in the SEC, and certainly in a big game like this one.

So, going in, advantage Georgia. The Bulldogs lead the nation in the fewest explosive plays allowed (14). The Gators are 34th in the nation, with 27.

The team that gives up the fewest, or makes the most, explosive plays has the better chance to succeed, UF coach Dan Mullen said.

“In this league, it’s hard to put together 12-, 15-play drives and come away with points,” he said. “We look at them at both sides of the ball. You look, if we’ve hit a bunch of explosive plays, we probably were able to put some points on the board. If we did not give up explosive plays, we probably held them to a low-scoring output.

“The quality of defense as you play top teams — to sit there and just say, ‘Hey, our goal, our plan is to drive it 16 plays every time we have the ball’ — that’s great, but it’s probably unrealistic with the type of teams that play in this league.”

The explosive plays the Gators have given up this season can be traced to several factors, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. Poor tackling. Miscommunication. Failure to stay in gaps and maintain the edge.

“It’s really more about leveraging the ball, making sure that you get an edge,” Grantham said. “The edge doesn’t necessarily have to be at the end of the line. It may be down the field and you set the edge and turn it back, because we’re a compression-tackling team, which means somebody always has to force the edge of the defense and everybody else is inside-out on the ball.

“You’re going to always work to compress the ball from outside-in and inside-out and vice the ball. That’s just something that we’ve got to continue to work on so we make those kind of plays.”

Even against the strongest defenses, explosive plays are going to happen. The key is to limit the number.

Grantham said the Gators have been OK in that regard.

“We’ve had games where it’s been where it needs to be and where it’s not,” he said. “It’s always been like one (explosive play) out of 25 (plays). So, if you’re one out of 25, you’re on track. To say you’re not going to give up one is unrealistic, so we’ve usually given the goal of one out of 25.

“If we’ve met the goal, then we’ve usually done the things we’ve needed to do. When we didn’t, we had a miscommunication and we didn’t set the edge, maybe we didn’t run like we needed to. Some of those things happened, and as a young team, we’ve learned from it. We coach it up on Mondays and we work to make sure it doesn’t happen again the next Saturday.”


  1. There was nothing complicated about the explosion plays versus Kentucky. Players were out of position and/or missed tackles due to poor technique. Both things are very correctable, and we have gotten much better since that game in both regards. Georgia has some speed, and they are more than capable of exploding on any given play, so there will be no room for let downs!

  2. Jaws I was thinking the same thing. Was watching some of the KY game and thought the players were still taking a few short cuts in position and not wrapping up. But we are better now. The style D we run has a risk element to it. But we have the personnel to run it and should be able to match them. We are better than last year, we are better than the beginning of this year, likely UGA is too. Who wants it more with all the push and pull of the FL V GA game. Interesting a Sabanite V Urbanite match as well. Gonna be fun. Hope its EPIC FL over GA by … not sharing for fear I’ll ruin it. Gut says we can win this.

    • I see where you’re coming from, 65, especially with regard to the KY game and the progress we’ve made. I think in addition to the technical improvements we have actually been tested too — and found the character to see us thru. What I don’t see is Georgia being tested until they ran into LSU — it’s still up in the air what they take away from that experience in terms of that “intangible”. We’ll soon find out!

      • Well, I have to admit that it wasn’t something I really thought of until Mveal brought it up the other day, but it really is interesting like you say, Jaws. But here’s another angle…..was Mullen really Uban’s understudy, or was he in fact the driving force behind the National Championships Urban won at Florida? Urban did flounder somewhat after Mullen left.

        • Good point 6. I always thought Mullen was a big part of Urbans success the first go around. Looks like the core that started stayed with Mullen over the years. Urbana production fell when he left. So that is the question who’s gonna win the match up. Sabanite or Urbanite? Specifically Mullen. I vote Mullen.

        • 1. The comments about Meyer’s last year at Florida are thought provoking, ive gone back and forth in my mind about it, and the choice not to go with CDM twice as well. Remember that Tom Herman at Texas is also one to watch in the Urban tree. But lets give Meyer his due, he did make some hires that were so good that the question can be asked. that doesnt happen very often.
          2. the Saban vs. Meyer wars and proxy wars in a way are already over. saban and his assistants really run the spread a lot now, except Champ i guess, so urban lost a battle or two but won the war so to speak imo
          3. I have a pet bulldog mix. wife found him on the side of the road, etc. the thing is i have in the past violated various local ordinances by letting him run free on the golf course, including an encounter with the local alligator. the crazy dog came up from behind, snipped at him to go to the water, and i really admire the dogs willingness to take on anything to protect us, in spite of what the government thought at the time. the larger point is the bulldog has a chance when he gets you from behind and uses your reactions to do what he wants. from our point of view is this game will require enhanced alertness, watch for the angles, and try to get the dog to make a mistake or two on our part (except my big puppy, of course if i had seen the alligator i would have made precautions, thank god it went well). If you go at my bulldog straight he will not back down, but he likes to come at you fast and turns quickly. these concepts are my framework..will discuss more when i can!

        • He hasnt floundered at OSU! So it clearly wasnt Mullen. Its who he picks for assistants. Mullen was a great pick. Urban won big at BG and Utah when mullen was just his QB coach. so it wasnt Mullen there either. Meyer just flubbed when he let Addazio be his OC.

          • No, he sure hasn’t. I was only talking about while he was still at Florida, but you sure make a good point about choosing assistants.

          • Mullen was floundering at if after Mullen left. The beginning of the health problems. I agree her regrouped at OSU.

          • U F not if. Daz I never disputed Myers is a great coach. Morals ethics another story. Yes the spread he brought has been refined and most use that now. Just who’s going to have the stronger coaching tree. Football evolves coaches have to as well. Doesn’t mean that the mojo has rubbed off on the assistants when they leave.

        • Yes talented Harvin and Tebow among others were there backbone of the TEAM. Still took good coaching to get there. Look how many talented guys get messed up/ miss used with bad coaching. Maybe our guys last year. Meyer/Mullen had good talent to work with.

  3. Different starters for UF versus UGA than those who faced UK.

    CECE Jefferson and Reese not in UK game. New starters at DT Shuler and Campbell. We will be better versus the run than we were when installing a new system versus UK.

  4. Some “explosive plays” the Gators have made this year have come on special teams play. If this game is close, a special teams play may be the difference in the outcome. UGA had a special teams trick play backfire on them against LSU, maybe they will be leery of trying one this week.

    • I have to feel Smart might be less inclined to try something. The timing of that fake field goal was odd, and in fact I felt Kirby had maybe his worse day overall in terms of calling that game. Georgia looked like they really didn’t have a plan and seemed to be playing from the start like they thought LSU was the superior team and they needed gimmicks to compete.

  5. David Reese could have been the difference in the KY game. The defensive ends got to deep and the QB ran underneath them. The middle linebackers failed to crape off creating big holes. That seems to have been corrected. Go gators

  6. My key to the game: Grantham disguises the defense for EITHER qb. He mastered that against LSU and Miss. St. Against Vandy, the Commodores used 6 blockers. This stopped the sacks, but left Vandy with only 4 offensive weapons plus Shumur. Watch the replay and you will notice Vandy got its biggest gains in the first quarter when the Florida safeties moved up to the LB position looking to blitz or pick up the inside run. Vandy gained 75 yds. on a screen play and ran 48 yds on a jet sweep that caught the safety moving up. After Grantham saw what Vandy was doing, he changed the schemes and Vandy offense was in trouble for 2nd, 3rd and 4th qtrs. Georgia uses standard 5-man blocking schemes. DISGUISE THE COVERAGES to force Fromm or Fields (and the Georgia coaches) to make the wrong decisions. At least that sounds simple enough. But it doesn’t always work so we shall see this Saturday.

  7. Our defensive struggles with BIG plays are a direct result of a 3-4 defense and blitzing from that defense. Every 3-4 defense Ive ever seen suffers from big plays. Grantham at MSU lost the bama game last year from an untimely blitz late in the game that saban seemed to guess was coming and resulted in a score.

  8. “Even against the strongest defenses, explosive plays are going to happen.” Not always so robbie. Our 2008 defense crushed opposing offenses and the 1 loss was a scraper and struggle for Ole Miss. they beat LSU by 30, Ga by 39, SC by 50.”the Gators were making blowouts commonplace, winning their last 10 games by an average of 35 points”. Ive never seen a better college defense than our 2008 Gators. “It felt like we had a professional defense top to bottom,” Haden said.

  9. On D, we must be careful not to over pursue or be over aggressive. This burnt us jn the first half badly against Vandy. They actually used it against us by setting up big screen passes and draw plays. We must pick our spots and be opportunistic. The right plays will develop for us to exploit. Grantham is aware of this.
    On O, we need 2-3 explosive plays and we need to be efficient in the red zone. Go to the TE’s and RB’s.
    Our Special team needs to flip the field and make the Dawgs work hard. A blocked punt or FG and a fumble recovery are important. Gators 24-21.