No Champion Grades For Florida Defense

Even though the Florida Gators held the Kentucky Wildcats to seven points and only 249 total yards Saturday night, it wasn’t the defensive effort that Coach Urban Meyer or his staff wanted. Meyer made that perfectly clear Monday at his media gathering when he announced that there were no defensive players grading champion this week.

“Our players have the expectation level which is most important and our assistant coaches do and they decided there are no champions for this game,” said Meyer. “We just did not play Florida football on defense the way we expect to play. We missed too many tackles and we didn’t play with passion but the positives are we pressured the quarterback, we had six sacks and our third down defense was really effective.”

For the game, the Wildcats had only 39 rushing yards and even though they completed 26 of their 38 passes, they managed only 210 passing yards — that’s just 5.5 yards per attempt and only 7.6 yards per completion. In contrast, the Gators averaged just under 10 yards per attempt and 17.4 yards per completion. Kentucky’s longest running play netted 17 yards and the longest passing play gained 18. The Gators averaged 7.8 yards per play while Kentucky averaged just 4.2.

The Gators have given up only 168 total rushing yards (42 per game) this season, fourth in the nation in that category. Florida is only giving up 1.8 yards per rushing attempt. Florida is ranked seventeenth in the country in pass defense efficiency and number eight in total defense. Still, Saturday’s effort on defense wasn’t what Meyer considered up to standard.

A couple of reasons Meyer and the defense were dissatisfied with the effort was Kentucky’s ability to control the ball along with Florida’s inability to create turnovers. Kentucky held the ball for 33:43 including 17:02 in the first half. Kentucky generated 183 first half yards but the defense tightened up in the second half.

“Second half stats we only gave up 15 yards rushing and 51 yards passing, 66 total yards, so an excellent second half of football,” Meyer said.

The turnover issue is a greater concern. For the season, the Gators are in the minus column when it comes to turnover margin.

“We did not create any [turnovers against Kentucky] and we gave up two,” said Meyer. “That’s something we need to improve on. We did not win the turnover battle and I do not believe we will win this game or the following games if we turn it over.”

What was frustrating for Meyer is that the Gators got to Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson plenty and usually, if a team is getting to the quarterback, there are plenty of turnovers. That wasn’t the case Saturday night, however.

“I think the fact we had six sacks … usually you get turnovers on a sack or you pressure the quarterback and he’ll throw the ball — the correlation between pressure on the quarterback and turnovers is extremely high,” said Meyer. “For some reason in that game, if someone saw the statistics, they couldn’t run the ball. They were one dimensional throwing the ball all over the place. We were pressuring the quarterback. The six sacks wasn’t even indicative of how many times he got hit.”

Florida’s six sacks were good for 39 yards in losses. The Gators were credited with five quarterback hurries, also.

“I don’t know the correlation,” said Meyer. “Usually the statistics prove if you’re hitting the quarterback you’re getting the ball back.”

* * *

On offense, grading champion were left tackle Phil Trautwein (88 percent grade), center Steven Rissler (91% grade), left guard Jim Tartt (80% grade) and right guard Drew Miller (88% grade).

Offensive Player of the Game for the Gators was wide receiver Dallas Baker, who had seven receptions for a career-high 148 yards.

“His run after catch was 97 yards which is terrific,” said Meyer. “He had a bunch of big runs on screens and short catches that turned into long gains. He had four big plays.”

BY THE NUMBERS: The Gators rank second in the SEC in scoring (30.8 per game) and that’s number 31 nationally. When it comes to scoring defense, the Gators are fourth in the SEC (8.5 points per game) and eighth nationally … The Gators are number two in the SEC in rushing offense (175.8 per game), number 34 in the nation … Florida’s passing offense is first in the SEC and ninth nationally at 289.8 yards per game … The Gators are number one in the SEC in rush defense (42 yards per game) and fourth nationally … Florida ranks third in the SEC and fourth nationally in net punting at 42.6 yards per game … Chris Leak ranks first in the SEC in pass efficiency (173.8) and fourth nationally … Dallas Baker ranks seventh nationally (third in the SEC) in receiving yards per game at 101.5 yards per game.

LSU GAME PICKED UP BY CBS: The SEC announced today that CBS has picked up the UF vs. LSU game and it has been scheduled for 3:30pm, eastern.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.