Florida Defense Starts Slow, Finishes Strong

The surprises the Florida defense saw from Furman allowed the Paladins to go up and down the field in the first quarter. While the Florida coaches scrambled to figure out the necessary adjustments, the Gators were blown off the ball at the line of scrimmage and couldn't stay on their feet because of cut blocks from Furman. Florida adjusted and slowed the Furman offense in the second half.

"We were ready for cut blocks but not to that extent of how they were doing them," Omar Hunter said. "It was out of different formations that we didn't know they were doing them out of, and that was hard for us to create pass rush up front."

Hunter admitted that despite the surprising formations and cut blocks, he still expected the Florida defense to hold its own better than it did. The option attack that Furman used had Florida defenders off balance and playing right into what the Paladins wanted.

Furman ran out to a 22-7 lead and had Florida scrambling to make corrections.

"I did think we would be a little more physical and would dominate a little bit more," Hunter said. "Towards the end of the game when we made our adjustments, we were. To start it off, I did think we would be a little more physical."

The cut blocks were designed by Furman to slow down Florida's pass rush. The Gators have struggled all season to get to the quarterback, so when the Paladins were able to execute the cut blocks to perfection, Florida's pass rush became non-existent.

The Florida defensive players were persistent in crediting the way Furman played.

"They're football players," Jon Bostic said. "Basically, they put their pants on just like we do. We don't look at it that way. They're a good team. The offensive line, they're good at what they do."

During the four-game losing streak earlier in the season, Florida struggled to slow down the opponent's running game. The same issue came back on Saturday. Furman ran for 233 yards, which is more than the 226 yards Florida allowed to Alabama on October 2.

Jerodis Williams went for 133 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including a 77-yard touchdown run in the second half.

"That's our main problem, stopping the run," Bostic said. "They had one big play in the third quarter, but that was about it."

With Furman trying to scramble back into the game in the fourth quarterback, the Florida defense teed off. Pop Saunders had his second interception in as many week, but this one was returned for Florida's first interception return for a touchdown this season. That made the Florida lead extend to 47-32, and Jelani Jenkins added an interception for a touchdown with four minutes left in the game.

It's something we strive for every week, and it's something we work on every week," Jenkins said. "It's great to finally get that. When we are able to put points on the board, it makes it an easier game for the whole team.

"We try to make big plays every time we get our hands on it. We always talk about how we have to make the big play when the team needs it."

For Jenkins, the interception was long overdue. He dropped as many as five so far this season, and his teammates made plenty of jokes about it throughout the year. That didn't stop on Saturday.

"We were in the end zone telling him that," Bostic said with a laugh.

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