For months they’ve told you what they were going to do, who they wanted to be but the Florida Gators defense finally showed why they think they’re the best defense in the country.
The Ole Miss Rebels brought in a video game offense that was second in the country in scoring and led the SEC in passing and total offense. Chad Kelly had spent the season spreading the ball around to play makers like John Stockton effortlessly dishing dimes.
Then he played Florida.
“Tonight kinda solidified who we were,” linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “I think the biggest learning experience was last week when we were down. That really showed us that we can fight through anything. We can fight through anything. We can beat anybody.”
The Gators defense set the tone early in the game. After the Gators punted on their opening drive, Florida punter Johnny Townsend changed the game with a 57-yard punt that flipped the field. Jarrad Davis’ sack on second and eight lit the Swamp on fire and Ole Miss punted one play later.
The defense stuck their foot squarely on the throat of the Ole Miss offense and they didn’t let up the rest of the quarter. Florida gave up two rushing yards and just 40 yards of total offense in the quarter.
“It starts obviously with defense. Our defense played their tails off. And they had a great plan; I thought the guys executed it,” Jim McElwain said after the game. “They communicated, and I’m gonna tell you something, they practiced that way Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, they had a perfect Thursday. They had a great walkthrough Friday and the routine and the detail of the weekend, they’re starting to understand the ‘why’ in some of that stuff.”
Last week Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs made Florida pay for missing tackle. The Gators spent entire periods in practice working on wrapping up, using what Dobbs did to serve as a reminder that you can’t overlook the fundamentals. The Gators wrapped up, thudded up and Keanu Neal even shook the ground with a pass break up and a spear of Ole Miss receiver Quincy Adeboyejo. The Florida defense played like the best defense in the country and they intensity they are bringing to the field right now will make Florida a contender every time they step on the field.
“Over the past couple of years we haven’t lived up to being a Gator,” defensive back Marcus Maye said. “Coach McElwain has been preaching that to us. The players on our team have the ability and talent to be one of the best teams in the country.”
A lot was made of Ole Miss’ offense the week leading up to the game and rightfully so. The Rebels had earned it to that point. Florida may not have been respected or had become an after thought this week but the defense came out, punched the Rebels in the face on the second play of the game, helped them up and said get ready for more.
“This one was kind of personal,” Jarrad Davis said. “We’ve seen this was a high-powered offense. They can do a lot of things, and we knew that if we play stout defense, kept the ball in our offense’s hands, we could not be stopped this game.
“We knew that for a fact.”