Saturday October 6, 2012Defensive Stand Indicative of Muschamp's Physical Blueprint
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The nation’s fourth-ranked defense gave Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel fits during Saturday’s 14-6 victory over LSU, especially in a first half when he passed for just 31 yards and was sacked five times.
The fifth one could have been a killer, but not on this memorable day in “The Swamp.”
Not against this Gators defense.
LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan smothered Driskel at the UF 18, forcing a fumble that rolled toward the end zone and was recovered by Tigers defensive end Barkevious Mingo at the 7-yard line with just 3:50 to go before intermission.
The Gators, trailing by three points in a blue-collar Southeastern Conference slugfest, did not want to go into the locker room down two scores.
As Driskel jogged off the field, he passed Florida senior linebacker Jon Bostic running on it.
“We got you, man!”
Did they ever.
UF rolled out the goal-line package that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his staff rolled in for LSU earlier in the week.
“As a defense, those are the situations you live for,” linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “We knew at some time they were going to be down there and we were going to have to make a goal-line stand. That’s what we did.”
In a lot of ways, the preparation for that stand began way before the bye week.
All the back to last year, even.
Spencer Ware was held to three yards on first down. On second down, Zach Mettenberger threw incomplete into the end zone. After calling back-to-back timeouts, LSU lined up with wideout Terrence Magee in shotgun formation and immediately UF defensive end Dominque Easley started screaming.
“JUMP PASS! JUMP PASS!”
The Tigers fooled the Gators on it last year for a touchdown. This time, when Magee ducked into the line, Florida did not bite on the fake. Magee looked to throw, but nothing was there, so he kept the ball for no gain, thus forcing a field goal.
So instead of a touchdown and two-possession deficit, the Gators trailed just 6-0 at halftime.
“Huge,” UF coach Will Muschamp said of the momentum his team took from that sequence. “A lot of that goes to confidence and knowing you’re going to go out on the field and make some stops. ... And knowing they wanted to run and tried to attempt two passes? That said a lot about how we were able to play up front. That was a great compliment to our kids.”
Added Quinn: “Even though they scored, the guys were like, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ “
They did it, all right. All game long.
“We believe in ourselves,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said.
Driskel never had a doubt.
“[Our defense] had been stopping them all day,” Driskel said. “I knew they stop them there.”
That belief system will only be fortified by the staggering numbers they put up against the team that won the SEC last season and played for the national championship.
The Tigers came into the game averaging 229.6 yards rushing -- 5.3 per carry -- and 39 points per game. They left with 42 yards rushing -- on 25 attempts (good for 1.7 per carry) -- and two measly field goals. They were also 1-for-13 on third down.
And for the fifth time in as many games this season, the Gators held their opponent scoreless in the fourth period. The Tigers, in fact, failed to score in a second half when they mustered just 119 yards and four first downs.
Think this is the physical blueprint Muschamp had in mind when he set out to rebuild the Florida program?
“This is a team that no one thought could come so far,” Floyd said. “This is a team that rallied together as one and never talked about anything we were going to do. We just did it. That’s what we are. That’s what Coach Muschamp wanted us to be.”
Muschamp warned more than once in his post-game news conference that it was only one game.
But it was a game when the Gators out-LSUed LSU, one of the conference’s standard-bearers of physicality.
“It’s gratifying to me because of the way we lost games last year,” Muschamp said, one referencing the humbling 41-11 thrashing his team took in Baton Rouge last October. “I know we’ve made improvements in the organization and from my role, where I sit, I have seen that improvement.”
A lot of people have seen it now.