LEXINGTON, Ky. — The gang got back together on Saturday night in Lexington and the Florida Gators defense finally lived up to their own expectations of being the best defense in the nation.
With the return of safety Keanu Neal, Florida had all of their weapons — except linebacker Alex Anzalone — and they were ready to show the world what all the fuss and talk was about this offseason.
“I definitely feel like we’re back to our complete BDN defense that, you know, we always preached,” defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. said. “We got two starters back in the secondary and a starter back on the d-line. It helped a lot.”
The Florida defense played a bend but don’t break style at times and completely stifled Kentucky at times. The Wildcats managed just 100 yards of offense in the first half and were just 6-of-18 on third down for the game.
It started up front with the Florida defensive line that registered five of Florida’s season-high six sacks. Alex McCalister set the tone for the entire defense when he sacked Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles on the third play of the game. Florida kept the pressure on Towles throughout the contest, hurrying him three times on top of their six sacks.
“When we do that it helps everybody,” senior Jon Bullard said. “It helps the DBs. The DBs get excited. They get locked in. We kind of started slow up front, which is something we need to work on. But overall I think everyone went out there and gave it their all. When we needed big plays people stepped up and did it. I feel like this year is my year to step up and do certain things, and that’s what I did.”
Not to be outshined, the secondary enjoyed the return of their leader Keanu Neal. Neal registered a sack, nine tackles and 1.5 for a loss in his season debut. The hit stick of the secondary was flying around the field with junior linebacker Jarrad Davis — who led the Gators in tackles for a second consecutive week.
Florida’s mentality on defense is simple. Put the ball down and play. It doesn’t matter who is across from there or where they are on the field, the Gators defense is ready to play anywhere.
“At the end of the day we just put the ball down wherever you want to play on the field,” Cox Jr. said. “We can play in the street, in an alley, it doesn’t matter, just put the ball down and we’ll play football.”