Florida football: Defense ready to shake off poor effort, bounce back at South Carolina

By Michael Phillips
October 18, 2019
Florida football: Defense ready to shake off poor effort, bounce back at South Carolina
Football

The No. 9 Florida Gators defense is in a bad mood. Prior to heading to Death Valley, the unit yielded averages of 276.3 yards and 9.5 points per game. The LSU Tigers, now ranked No. 2 off the back of its second-half domination of Florida, dropped 42 points and 511 yards en route to a key victory.

“’It’s kind of, you know, disgusting,” redshirt senior defensive tackle Adam Shuler said after watching film from the game. “We know we’re better than that.”

Florida was leading the nation in interceptions heading into the game and was tops in the SEC in sacks as well. Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow got away scott-free in the game, and the Gators, without senior defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga for most of the game, were never able to bring Burrow to the ground. 

“I don’t know where we [were] at, what we were doing,” sophomore linebacker Amari Burney said. “The coaches, they talked to us. They had the right game plan; we just didn’t execute. This week, we are going to go back to our old ways, and we are going to execute.”

Some teams would want to burn or bury the LSU film. That’s not Florida’s style. It has embraced its failures and is not only using them as motivation but a teaching tool as well. 

“We have to go back and look at all of our mistakes in order to get better,” junior safety Donovan Stiner said. “In order to clean something up, you have to acknowledge it and stuff like that. But yeah, we want to go back, and that’s not our standard, and we didn’t like the way we played, obviously. But we want to fix it.

“I think it makes us hungrier for a performance like that, we weren’t — we didn’t like how we played clearly. So yeah, it makes us more hungry, and I think we want to get out there and prove that’s not what it will be.”

That mentality should serve them well as the Gators prepare continue their toughest stretch of the season with four straight SEC East games coming up. South Carolina is ahead on Saturday.

“It is the important part of our season, Coach [Dan] Mullen mentioned that this morning,” redshirt sophomore defensive end Zachary Carter said. “We’ve got four big East games left to go win the conference, so I think it is a reset.”

Carter makes a good point. Florida is certainly in control of its own destiny, and Georgia’s loss to South Carolina gives it a slight advantage. If the Gators win out, they are headed to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. But first things first, and a trip to Columbia, South Carolina, is their only focus for now. 

Last season, Florida fell to Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and allowed that to carry over to its next game (homecoming against Missouri). The Gators remember that all too well. Just like they aren’t hiding from last week’s loss to the Tigers, they aren’t ignoring what happened last year.

“Yeah, actually coach mentioned that this morning, and I think the guys will use that as motivation,” Carter said.

“Well that’s something the team talked about like last year, we let one loss effect our season,” junior safety Shawn Davis said. “That’s something we’re not doing, so everybody’s just like, ‘Move past it, leave that game in that past and just move on, win this game and win out.”

In their eyes, this season is truly just getting started for the Gators, and although losing to the Tigers the way they did defensively is not how anybody wants to play, Florida still trusts its defense and knows that a lot of good can come out of a loss like the one to LSU. 

“They’re ready to roll,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “It really gets down to being simple, like I said. When we’ve won this year, we were hard to run on and we affected the quarterback. When we didn’t do that on Saturday, we didn’t play the way we wanted to.

“It’s just a matter of understanding we need to be exact in what we want and make sure we’re all on the same page and make plays.”

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