COLUMBIA, S.C. — The disturbing trend started a month ago. After a bye week the Gators allowed Georgia to rush for 292 yards on 8.34 yards per carry. Missouri posted 227 yards and South Carolina made it three in a row with 249 yards.
What is wrong with the Florida Gators rush defense? What’s wrong with the defense in general?
On Saturday the Gamecocks totaled 469 yards — a season high — and rushed for 220 yards, the first time South Carolina has rushed for more than 100 on Florida since 2013.
Florida is talented, albeit somewhat depleted, on defense. That fact makes the struggles this season more difficult to comprehend and stomach.
“It has nothing to do with athleticism or knowing what you’re supposed to do,” Taven Bryan said. “It’s just one dude thinks this, one dude thinks that.”
How is communication still an issue 11 weeks into the season?
“That’s what’s the most frustrating thing about it is that it’s really us,” linebacker David Reese said.
South Carolina running back A.J. Turner had carried the ball just 57 times this season. Saturday the sophomore toted it 22 times for 136 yards, a 6.2 yard-per-carry average. He rushed through lanes wide enough for a fiat to fit through and gouged the Gators. Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley, despite throwing three interceptions, rushed for two uncontested scores, as did sophomore running back Mon Denson. Denson’s two touchdowns were the first scores of his collegiate career.
This far into the season you shouldn’t be talking about gap fits and communication but that’s where this Florida team is currently. It’s part of the reason they’ve hit a five-game skid.
This season Florida has already given up more points than they did a season ago in in four less games. They’re giving up an average of 28.3 points per game, a touchdown worse than the 4-8 season in 2013. In fact, the 28.3 points-per-game given up is the worst since 1948.
Nineteen hundred and forty-eight.
It’s been an exceptionally poor season filled with missed tackles, missed assignments and little discipline. The unit was young and green at the beginning but nine games in they’re neither.
The Gators will return a lot on defense next season. They’ll be a better unit for going through the trials and tribulations that they endured in 2017. They can hand their hat on the fact that they played a lot of true freshmen and sophomores, players that will be back next season with something to prove.
For the rest of this season, they’ll need to show Gator fans that they’re ready to be a unit Florida can be proud of, not one that is the worst defense Florida has seen in more than seven decades.