“It’s ok to be great.”
The aforementioned quote, made by Jim McElwain, was a comment on the mindset of the developing offense over the offseason, but it applied to all aspects of the Gators’ play in Saturday night’s massive 38-10 win over Ole Miss.
With a beast of a man in Robert Nkemdiche bearing down on him, Will Grier calmly delivered a perfect 36-yard strike to Demarcus Robinson to give the Gators their first seven points against the third-ranked team in the country. The first of many scores for the Gators on an incredible night in the Swamp, it would take Ole Miss late into the fourth quarter to finally eclipse that point total thanks to a stifling defensive performance. Speaking of which, let’s talk about this defense for the Florida Gators.
Saturday night was easily the most impressive outing for BDN, the Best Defense in the Nation lived up to the billing and then some Saturday night. On a monumental night for the Gators, which gave the Florida faithful everything from Dominique Easley as Mr. Two Bits, to a veteran surprising his family, to Will Grier throwing four touchdowns in the first half, the defense had a couple of “fours” of their own. Unloading on Ole Miss’ offense for four sacks and forcing four turnovers, the Gators stopped the opportunistic Rebel offense before it even had a chance.
But, by far the most impressive performance by this defense came late in the third quarter, on Ole Miss’ first drive of the second half. On a 19-play drive that ate up nine minutes and 35 seconds off of the clock, the Rebels desperately needed a touchdown to cut into their 25-point deficit and shift momentum away from the Gators. Then came a first and goal at the Florida one-yard line. Seeming like a foregone score, all Ole Miss had to do was punch it in and the wheels might have started turning again.
Then the best defense in the nation stood up and showed the country why the Swamp is feared again. On three straight run plays, Florida’s defense imposed their will. By the time fourth down rolled around, the Gators had pushed Ole Miss back to the five yard line and sent Rebels Head Coach Hugh Freeze clamoring for any points he muster in the hopes it might be enough to turn the tide. Instead, he gave the Swamp a defining moment on defense, one that the 90,000 plus in attendance will remember as the day the Gators locked the door and threw away the key against the best team in the West. “It’s ok to be great.”
The field goal meant nothing for the Rebels as they had exhausted far too much clock to come away with a measly three points. It didn’t help that three of the four turnovers caused by BDN took place in the second half. It also didn’t help that Florida Safety Keanu Neale laid a crippling hit to jar the ball free from Rebel receiver Quincy Adeboyejo on what would have been a big third down conversion. The Gators defense also ruled money downs on Saturday, allowing Ole Miss to convert on only 5 of their 14 third down attempts — and they didn’t try to convert on fourth like Butch Jones had last week.
The most satisfying part of the win, though, was seeing the synergy between the offense and the defense. I would be remiss not to mention Florida’s solid special teams play as well. But the fact that the Gators’ offense scored early and often enough to allow the defense to pin their ears back and feast without fear and cause the four turnovers is what is most encouraging. As Coach Mac has said, both sides of the ball get along well with each other, something that couldn’t necessarily have been said during the Muschamp era.
A storyline all week coming into the game was that the Ole Miss Land Shark defense caused turnovers in bunches, giving their offense chances to score quickly. Florida flipped the script on them, though, and scored 19 points off of the Rebel turnovers.
Not to be outdone, Hargreaves also registered yet another interception for his third on the season. His interception would reassert that the Gators would not let Ole Miss pass in the Swamp and set Florida up with their eventual field goal that put them up four full touchdowns at 31-3 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s ok to be great.”
The best defense in the nation knows that and now the offense is showing it. While the road ahead is difficult, the Gators must continue to view the schedule one week at a time no matter who they play because chasing perfection means showing up every day to work and maintaining the hunger of the underdog.
- Jarrad Davis recorded 1.5 sacks, Taven Bryan and Alex McCalister logged a sack, and Jonathan Bullard registered half a sack.
- The Gators have 18 sacks total on the season. The Gators’ defense held the Rebels’ vaunted offense that had been the first team in FBS history to score 70-plus points in back-to-back games and had hung 43 on Alabama to a mere 10 points. Additionally, seven of those points came in garbage time when the Gators were up by 35 points.
- Antonio Morrison recorded 16 tackles and was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week
- Thanks to Florida’s opportunistic defense and smart offense, the Gators are now plus 6 in turnover margin.