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Saturday October 20, 2012Gators Defensive Line Delivers With a Personal Touch

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. A couple of times each week during the season, Dominique Easley huddles up with three of his close buddies on the Florida defense to look at tape and reminisce about -- for lack of a better phrase -- the bad ol' days.

The Florida junior defensive end gets together with classmates and fellow linemen Sharrif Floyd and Lerentee McCray, along with safety Matt Elam, and they watch tape from the last two years of Florida being beaten; in some cases, getting beaten down.

"People don't understand how personal this is to us," Easley said Saturday night after the third-ranked Gators demolished No. 9 South Carolina 44-11 at Florida Field. "They're starting to understand now."

All four guys were here two years ago when Gamecocks tailback Marcus Lattimore gashed the Gators for 212 yards on 40 carries in a 36-14 home loss. Last year, USC ran it down UF's throat again -- 215 yards on 52 carries -- in winning 17-12 at Columbia.

Together, Easley and his support group relived those games to get ready for this one, and now can check the Gamecocks off their list.

"If we don't beat them the way we want to, they don't get checked," Easley said. "We have to make them feel the pain we felt."

For the record, 44-11 got a check.

In the bigger picture, though, being able to limit South Carolina's rushing attack to just 36 yards on 26 carries -- that's 1.4 per attempt -- changed the game's complexion.

"Our preparation for this game was great," Floyd said. "We [knew] what was coming, we understood their formations."

The Gamecocks never found a rhythm in their rushing attack, which came in averaging 160.4 yards per game. Things only got tougher for South Carolina when it fell behind 21-3, thanks to a trio of turnovers, including two off special teams, that dug the visitors into a huge hole.

And despite the guy wearing the headset, South Carolina does not possess your father's version of a Steve Spurrier aerial assault.

"Last year, they were able to bleed some yards against us and get four and five and six a pop, and we had a hard time stopping the run," said UF coach Will Muschamp, who particularly challenged his defense after surrendering 126 yards on the ground at Vanderbilt last week. "Again, that's where it all starts for us. If we're able to make it a one-dimensional game, we do have some explosive pass rushers who can rush the quarterback and we do have good speed on the field. That kind of plays into our hands when we get into those games."

Once the Gamecocks were down by 15, they had no choice to but try and throw the ball and the Gators were ready to tee off with pressure.

Florida finished with four sacks, gave up only 191 yards and forced Spurrier into a quarterback change, thus returning serve on a couple painful memories the last two years.

"It was more than football for some of us," Easley said. "It was personal."

Make that two straight top-10 SEC heavyweights (LSU and South Carolina) to come to the "Swamp" and leave without scoring a touchdown. 

When Easley and Floyd and McCray and Elam and every other Gator wakes up Sunday -- and is back at practice Monday -- it'll be about football again as UF looks to next week's huge Southeastern Conference Eastern Division clash against Georgia.

And about being better than the last time.

"We hold each other to that standard and won't let anyone go below it," Floyd said.

But as a reminder, there probably will be a viewing (and reviewing) of Georgia's 24-20 win last season. One that made the Gators 0-4 for the month of October.

Bet Easley and friends remember.

 

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