This is where the Gators are supposed to be. Florida took another giant step in “restoring the order” to the SEC on Saturday.
With yet another smothering performance by the best defense in the nation, Florida has begun to establish a suffocating system. It’s a system predicated on taking care of the football, taking what opposing defenses give the offense, and field position — all set up by terrifying defensive play. With their performance on Halloween, BDN made it frighteningly tough for the Bulldogs and silenced any naysayers that may have cropped up after they had one rough quarter against the now fourth ranked LSU Tigers.
While 223 total yards allowed by the Gators is a great number for a defense in just about any outing, that’s not even the most telling stat of the afternoon. That would be the five turnovers recovered by five different Florida players (Nick Washington, Vernon Hargreaves, Marcus Maye, Keanu Neal, and Jarrad Davis). It doesn’t matter who you are playing, if you commit five turnovers in one game, it’s near impossible to win anything.
It also didn’t make it any easier for Georgia that Mark Richt decided to play backup quarterback Faton Bauta, who had never started a game before. And while that is understandable considering previous starter Grayson Lambert had been having problems, Richt could have opted for the partially experienced Brice Ramsey instead. He also could have made some sort of a change at the half when his Bulldogs were down to the Gators 20-0.
He probably should have. Bauta finished the day 15-33, with four interceptions, and a mere 154 passing yards. And that wouldn’t have been so bad if they would have been able to equal that yardage in the run game. But they only managed 69. To finish them off and really ensure that they had no chance, they kept dropping passes. None epitomized the Bulldogs’ afternoon like a huge drop by Jay Rome on third and one at the Florida 36 — a play that would have likely gone for a touchdown. So close yet so far for the Bulldogs.
But let’s look at what should be considered the defensive play of the game. With Georgia driving early in the fourth quarter threatening to make it a game, BDN came up with their third interception of the night on second down at the Florida three. While the stat sheet will read a Keanu Neal pick in the end zone, equal credit goes to cornerback Jalen Tabor for putting his hand in and popping the pass up to Neal.
From there, Georgia lost any and all momentum as Florida had it all on the next drive running all over them again scoring the game’s final touchdown. That is the most dangerous aspect of this Gators team- synergy and trust. I’ve been harping on it all season and I’ll continue shouting it from the rooftops until someone else starts shouting with me.
While Florida’s offense struggled at times Saturday, despite the 413 yards, the offense did plenty to allow the defense to pin their ears back and play aggressively. The last two seasons the Gators have had top 20 defenses but had offenses that were so inept that the defense could not trust them to do anything. On top of that, they were run ragged, being out on the field for far too long to be able to win the game for Florida every week.
That script has changed a bit as the Gators, under offensive geniuses Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, have finally learned how to pass. Not only is it throwing, but it’s throwing it “to the right colored jersey” as Coach Mac often refers to it. And the Gators have been fantastic in that department. Although Harris committed a surprising fumble that led to Georgia’s only points of the day, Florida Quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris have not thrown an interception since the first half of the Tennessee game.
That smart playing has left Florida with a +13 turnover differential. That still places the Gators at the top of the SEC in that stat and is good for second in the country behind the equally surprising Houston Cougars (+15).
No longer is the offense playing conservative and scared and forcing the defense to win it. The defense is now playing lights-out biding its time until the offense delivers the killing blow. By the way, that killing blow seems to be to Antonio Callaway more than anyone else this season as he continues to have a monster freshman year.
The growth is so crucial as the more BDN trusts the offense, the more terrifying this family of Gators becomes.
- Florida crushed the Bulldogs 27-3 on Saturday.
- Vernon Hargreaves recored the 10th interception of his career Saturday.
- Florida had 13 minutes and 42 seconds more time of possession than Georgia (36:51 to 23:09).
- Florida’s first touchdown of the day came on a fumbled punt return recovered by Nick Washington in the end zone.
- Florida now boasts the second best scoring defense in the SEC and the seventh best scoring defense in the country allowing only 15.5 points per game.
- Florida was nasty on Money Downs yet again allowing the Bulldogs to convert on only two of 12 third down attempts.
- The Gators will try to clinch the SEC East crown against Vanderbilt on homecoming next week.