Black, Defense Looking to Make More Big Plays

The Florida defense allowed only 10 points to Mississippi State, but it was their lack of a game-changing play that hurt the most. The Gators couldn't force a turnover against the Bulldogs, and they've only forced one turnover in the last three games. They're now using the open week to focus on creating more big plays.

"It's something we can control," safety Ahmad Black said. "We've got to get better at it. Coach always says we control two-thirds of the game, and defense is part of that. We need to make sure we know our assignments and lock in."

Whether it's by a turnover or a quick defensive stop, the defense also knows it has to get off the field earlier. Mississippi State was able to sustain long drives, especially in the second half, that dominated the clock and allowed them to take control of the game.

The Bulldogs threw one pass in the second half for minus-5 yards, daring the Florida defense to stop the run. The Gators couldn't, and the clock continued to run.

"We've got to get off the field a little earlier," Black said. "Holding an SEC opponent to ten points, that's got to be good. We've just got to get off the field a little faster."

Mississippi State's offense consisted of single wing runs from quarterback Chris Relf throughout the second half. They took advantage of a quarterback run formation that the Gators have used since Tim Tebow was a freshman, and the Florida defense couldn't stop it.

The Bulldogs bled the clock and made it tougher on the Florida offense. The Gators started their two-minute drive in the fourth quarter with the ball on their own ten-yard line, 90 yards away from a touchdown to win the game. They moved the ball to the Bulldogs' 25-yard line before Chas Henry missed a kick that would have tied the game.

If the Florida defense could have earned a stop earlier in the previous Bulldogs drive, the outcome could have been different.

"We can't sit on the field and let the offense take control of the game by the clock," Black said. "Controlling the clock is one of the things that help you win games. Getting off the field is a huge part of the game."

The evaluation process over the bye week has been focused on the Florida offense, but that doesn't mean the defense isn't being looked at.

"It should be," Black said. "Knowing that somebody is coming to take your spot should make the team better as well. Knowing someone is trying to come take my spot should make me better."

No area of the team is dodging their need for improvement. However, team meetings continue to address that their goal is still in place. It's rare that a 4-3 team would be able to say that the goals they worked for during the offseason are still reachable, but that's what is happening this fall.

The Florida coaches preach playing the SEC Championship Game as the goal, and the Gators still control their own destiny.

"We made a big point about it," Black said. "It's something we've got to keep in the young guys heads because we still have a long season ahead of us. There are a lot of things we can get accomplished still."

The finger pointing in the locker room isn't there, and the upperclassmen are making sure the team stays as close as they were in the offseason.

"I love being on this team," Black said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything, despite the three losses. I enjoy my team and coaches. I'd do anything for them. I love being a Gator, even though the time is winding down."
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