Will Muschamp walked into his post-game press conference and in his very first breath, said something that stunned me and the media; he pointed the finger at his defense.
“I think we gave them way too much momentum early in the game. Defensively, the first drive got out of sorts with our substitution and communication,” Muschamp said. “It settled down as the game went on but we gave them a big play, you give a team belief, certainly that’s what we did defensively early.”
By the way, the defense that Muschamp pointed his finger at in the post-game press conference held a Miami team that had produced three consecutive games of 500+ yards of offense to just 212 yards of offense. The Hurricanes averaged 42 points a game in those last three contests and won by an average margin of 22 points.
This is a defense that held Heisman hopeful Duke Johnson to 59 total rushing yards on 21 carries. Last week against FAU, Johnson carried the ball 19 times for 186 yards. As a freshman, he averaged 6.81 yards-per-carry, Florida held him to just a paltry 2.8 per carry today.
He pointed his finger at a defense that held Miami to just two total yards in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss and a defense that at one point in the game forced Miami into four straight three-and-outs.
Muschamp said that the defense gave the Hurricanes way too much momentum early on in the game and that is — for the most part — true. After a Matt Jones fumble, Miami’s offense gashed the Gators for 50 yards on nine plays for the opening score of the game. Florida’s offense responded but a blown assignment on the next Miami drive resulted in 52-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett.
Just like that, the Gators defense had given up 143 yards of offense in just one quarter. So, in a sense, Muschamp was right, the defense did let Miami build momentum early. But then, like a noose hanging around the neck of a condemned prisoner, the defense snapped into position and suffocated the life out of Miami’s offense.
After getting torched in the opening quarter, Florida’s defense held the Canes to 69 total yards of offense through the next three quarters.
If the defense did give Miami momentum in the first quarter, Dominique Easley danced all over that momentum as he made a home in Miami’s backfield. The defense is not the reason that Florida lost the football game in Miami. Muschamp knows it, fans know it and the team knows it.
“Just gotta get back to the board,” Loucheiz Purifoy said.” The defense held it down, just gotta get back to the board.”
“We’re expected to do stuff like that,” Neiron Ball said. “We go out and play hard every play no matter what. It’s going to be frustrating with anybody if the offense can’t score but you just gotta go to work, practice and keep working.”
So why did Muschamp point he finger at his defense? Because he knows they can take it. He knows that by pointing his finger at the defense, people won’t look at how unsuccessful Florida was at doing what they normally do best — run the ball up the gut. He knows that the offense isn’t up to par, that the defense is the heart and soul of his football team and he pointed the finger at them today because he knows that they will understand what he was trying to do and they will respond.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, Easley and the defense have two weeks to stew over this loss and being called out by their coach before they can take out their frustrations from Saturday.
Two very, very long weeks.