Gator Defense Does Enough to Win

It was a wild race to the finish line Saturday night in Jacksonville, and the Florida Gators crossed that line ahead of the Georgia Bulldogs. The Florida defense did some very good things, but also showed some cause for concern as Georgia racked up 31 points and 439 yards. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was pleased with the win and saw some bright spots, especially with individuals.

On a night when the Florida offense surprised folks with its good play, the Florida defense gave up a lot, but just enough to hold on to a greatly satisfying win against a major rival. The Florida defense started off strong only surrendering seven points in the first half, but surrendered four scoring drives in the first four series of the second half to see the Bulldogs post a tie in regulation.

The defense manned up in overtime and stopped Georgia on its only possession of the overtime period with an interception that was run back 88 yards that almost scored. The interception allowed Florida's offense to move just a little bit forward on its possession and then kick the game winning field goal.

Austin will take the win.

"We are judged on wins and losses," Austin said moments after the game and when speaking to the media. "A couple of weeks ago we didn't give up many points and we lost. At the end of the day we made enough plays to win."

The defense made many key stops in the first half and also gave the ball to the offense in good field position on at least two of their scoring drives. Austin understands how important it is for his defense to come up with those big plays.

"It was super important because of momentum changes," he said. "Ahmad Black got the sack and we went in and scored. We had some plays that created some momentum for our team and those are game changing plays and that paid off for us."

One bright spot on the field was the overall play of free safety Will Hill. Hill has struggled to make big plays and seemingly struggled with being out of position a lot this season. Saturday night, there seemed to be a couple of early miscues, but Hill made several big plays on the day including two interceptions that set up the offense for a short scoring drive and then the game winning field goal in overtime.

"He played like a Florida safety and made some wonderful plays out there," Austin said of Hill. "He was physical and intercepted the ball, he did a wonderful job."

There were times that Hill had to come off the field meaning that sophomore Josh Evans got some quality playing time. Evans had a good night as well according to Austin.

"A few times (Hill) looked a little gassed out there so we rotated Josh in there and he did a good job while he was in there."

Another star for Florida was junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins was assigned the unenviable task of guarding all-American receiver A.J. Green most of the night. Green finished with 42 yards and a touchdown and was pretty much bottled up when Jenkins had man coverage on him.

"We matched Janoris on him and he had him most of the night and I thought Janoris did a phenomenal job," Austin said. "We put our best guy on their best guy and lived with the rest. He had an interception to start the game and you want a good start…that is a good start."

Sophomore Jeremy Brown started opposite Jenkins at the other corner spot and had a pretty rough night. Brown has had a very good year in 2010, but made enough miscues that Austin decided to give freshman Cody Riggs some time on the field.

"He's fine, he is a competitor and he'll be back," Austin said of Brown's removal late in the game. "He's played some good football for us. We wanted to give Cody an opportunity to get in there and make something happen and he did a good job while he was in there."

Nobody is happier for the offense after a game like the Georgia game than Austin, who was also ecstatic for offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Addazio has taken quite a bit of heat over the course of the season for the offensive woes that the Gators have had in the first two months.

"My hat's off to Steve," Austin said. "I have known Steve for a long time and I know he is a tremendous football coach. He was never a bad coach and today I was very happy for our offense and happy for Steve."

The locker room after the game was as electric as it has been in quite some time. Austin soaked in the atmosphere of the big win before coming to meet the media and talk.

"It felt absolutely great," he said. "As a coach and a player you feel privileged to be in this game with the tradition and how special it is. Our guys were excited and I was excited. I was really proud of the effort of our guys and being able to come out of the game with a victory really makes it pretty special."
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