Kitchens Remained Focused

The Florida defense was shell shocked in the first quarter of Saturday's matchup with overmatched Furman. The Paladins scored 22 points in the opening period and did so with a new look and some ‘trickeration'. Linebacker Darrin Kitchens did his best to help the defense out. The sophomore from Miami led all Gators in tackles with 12 in his first career start as a Gator.

Darrin Kitchens is starting in place of SAM backer Lerentee McCray who has missed the last two and a half games with an injury. He was part of a defense that got a surprise from Furman who used formations and personnel they hadn't used all season and in turn were able to out leverage the Florida defense in the first quarter.

Florida recovered at that point and limited Furman to 10 points for the rest of the day as the offense and then the defense itself poured in 54 for the contest.

"We lost the edge a few times because they came out with a new offense and we just had to regroup," Kitchens told the Florida media following the game. "We focused and came back as you can see.

"We just had to reset the front differently, see what they were doing, and adjust. Then we played our own defense and what we normally play and were good to go."

Kitchens reiterated the words of head coach Will Muschamp who said he was proud that his team stayed focused in the game and trusted themselves to recover from a quick 22-7 deficit.

"I believed in my guys the whole way," Kitchens said. "I knew the offense was going to come back and I knew it was up to the defense to stop the run so they couldn't score any more."

The Florida defensive linemen faced a new challenge against the offensive linemen of Furman. The Paladin line was cutting the defensive front all day diving at their legs at the start of the play and trying to get them to the ground. It really disrupted Florida early on and allowed Furman to hit some quick outside runs for big gains.

"If they are cutting more it means the running back can get to the next level," Kitchens said. "Then we just have the defensive linemen to play their gaps, keep containment on the outside, and then we can do what we can do. After we settled down and saw what they were doing, we could regroup."

Kitchens had a career day with 12 tackles and the most time on the field he has ever seen. It was a strong showing for someone in their first career start. He says actually playing in games the last few weeks has allowed him to realize the real playing speed of a game.

"I improved a lot and give credit to the coaches…," he said. "Being in the game I get to see it with my eyes and react better. That is probably why I am able to make a move faster than I would a couple of weeks ago."

Kitchens also talked up one of his teammates. Pop Saunders had an interception return for a touchdown and a tackle for loss in the game.

"Pop is a very good worker… hard worker," Kitchens said. "He is watching more and more film, studying the game and is getting better."

Florida is taking on Florida State on Saturday. It is a meeting of two underperforming teams. The Seminoles got the best of Florida last year in a blowout win, but Kitchens, like the Gators have done all year, didn't want to talk about last season.

"We like to stay focused on this year," he said like a proven veteran of speaking to the media. "We haven't touched on last year. This is a new team and a new staff. We just stay focused and are going to play the way we know how to.

Still, he understands the importance of the rivalry game.

"The season hasn't gone as we wanted to, but beating FSU is always a good thing," he said. "They are our rivals and we are going to plan and focus just like we do every game. We are going to go hard and play Gator football."

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