The offense has been covered; moving on to the defense.
23 points isn’t three and it definitely isn’t zero, but even with Tennessee’s scoring explosion, Florida is allowing less than nine points per game on the season. We knew the Vols would be the biggest test the Gators’ defense had faced all season, but overall Florida played well and got the win. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray got his yards and his touchdowns, but the defense also intercepted him twice and pressured him throughout the game. It definitely didn’t hurt to watch the Gators completely shut down the Vols’ running game either. Good win; solid play by the defense. Plenty to like and some improvement to be had. We’ll take it and take 3-0 (1-0).
The defensive line was having trouble getting to opposing quarterbacks consistently during wins over FAU and UAB. With plenty of star power across the line, it was hard to understand why pressure was few and far between. You could have asked the question if Sharrif Floyd’s absence contributed, but it was difficult to imagine one player making that much of a difference. Then again, maybe it was the cohesiveness of the unit that was thrown off with Floyd watching from the sidelines. Against Tennessee, the pressure was back. The line only accounted for one sack – a split by Jaye Howard and Ronald Powell – but also helped spring linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins who each had sacks themselves. In addition, Floyd and Powell each had two hits on Bray and Dominique Easley had two tackles for loss. It was a start and needs to continue against Kentucky. Good to see Floyd back in action and hopefully a spring in Powell’s step.
Bostic and Jenkins were number one and two in tackles against the Vols and that’s the way it should be every game. They’re getting to ball carriers and finishing tackles. This is exactly what we all wanted to see last season and it’s something that makes us smile now. These are two of the more talented players on a roster full of ability and potential. In the new defense, they’re able to make plays and are doing so. Now if we can just get Jenkins to catch sure interceptions, the Gators will be golden! Other than that, these two are improving week after week and have become the leaders of the defense.
16 penalties for 150 yards. I’m sure real journalists would shy away from saying juvenile words in all caps. Luckily for you, I’m not a real journalist. Here’s my reaction to 16 and 150: YIKES! The fact that Tennessee had 10 penalties for 94 yards lessens the impact a little, but not much. At the heart of the Gators’ numbers were more pass interference penalties than you should have in a month of games. There were questionable calls for sure, but for the most part they were reasonable. That’s the nature of a young secondary and something that will improve, but right now it’s an issue. They’ll learn that when the receiver turns his head, they might want to as well because the ball may be coming. They’ll get there, if only because giving up 150 yards a game won’t be acceptable to Will Muschamp. I don’t know about the rest of you, but after watching Muschamp on Saturday, I would never want to come even close to doing something that he might deem unacceptable. The man has just a little bit of fire to him. You know, just a tiny, little bit.
Other than the penalties, the secondary passed its test against Bray. Because of a non-existent run game – the Vols netted a loss of nine yards – and having to play from behind the entire game, Bray did total 288 yards and threw three touchdown passes. He attempted 48 passes though. Brantley’s average per completion was actually higher. The secondary didn’t give up the long play and played well enough to not let him be a star. That’s good on a number of levels, but mostly because Bray may be one of the best quarterbacks the Gators face this season. They intercepted him twice and never broke. They may have bent, but they didn’t break. It wasn’t an A performance, but it also wasn’t a C. Despite the yards and touchdowns, I hope the confidence of the secondary continues to grow.
Allowing 279 yards to one of your chief rivals in a divisional conference game is acceptable. Allowing 23 points may be a little much though. If the penalty issue is diminished and the pressure on opposing quarterbacks continues, it’ll improve. This wasn’t a bad game for the defense and shouldn’t be seen as one. It was a test and, again, they didn’t break. This should be a team to be excited about.
Next up: special teams.