Different Looking Defense

The Florida defense looked the way that head coach Will Muschamp has wanted it to all season in Monday's Gator Bowl. There were turnovers, sacks and plenty of hits on the opposing quarterback, forcing the Ohio State offense into a difficult situation. As the Gators prepare for the offseason, Muschamp saw a defense taking strides to become what he wants.

"You'd love to have six sacks in every game, but I think a big part of the plan was to pressure the quarterback to keep edges for his escapability," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said after Monday's 24-17 win. "(Braxton Miller) is an outstanding athlete and is going to continue to progress as a player. He's very reminiscent for me of 3-4 years ago at the Fiesta Bowl with Terrell Pryor. He's a similar type guy and similar type athlete. We had to do some things to create edges and not let him escape much.

"When we could get them in second and long or third down to create one-on-ones, Dan (Quinn) did a nice job with that."

The Gators recorded six sacks for the first time since doing it at Tennessee in 2010. It wasn't just one player, either. Jaye Howard and Shariff Floyd each recorded a sack and a half, while Ronald Powell, Josh Evans and Matt Elam had one sack of their own. The Florida defense totaled 12 tackles for a loss on the day.

"We were doing a better job of playing blocks up front," Muschamp said. "We've got to make more momentum changing plays for our football teams defensively."

In a perfect situation, the way Florida got to the quarterback on defense Monday is the way Muschamp wants it to happen all the time. He still needs to recruit players capable of making that happen, but the current players are taking steps to making it happen.

Floyd split time at defensive tackle and end, but it's at tackle that he made the most noise. His one and a half sacks all came on Ohio State's first drive of the game and he also brought pressure into the backfield.

"He's going to play both," Muschamp said about Floyd's future position. "In our league, and when you play a team like Ohio State that wants to run the two-back runs, you've got to have somebody who is setting the edges on the ends. He'll continue to play both and we'll continue to find the best combination of guys. This year, the best combination was him at end. I can't answer that question for next year."

INJURY UPDATE: Xavier Nixon tweaked a knee but is "fine." Chaz Green had an ankle injury, but Muschamp wasn't concerned about it. Chris Johnson came out of the game with a rib injury. The two offensive linemen being hurt had Florida playing without much depth at offensive tackle, even using Nick Alajajian and Kyle Koehne at the tackle positions at the same time.

"I asked (offensive line coach) Frank (Verducci) if he wanted me to dress out, and he said no," Muschamp quipped.

WINNING SEASON: The players and coaches spoke throughout bowl preparation about the importance of recording a win, not just for the momentum it would bring, but what it meant to the program. Coming in with a 6-6 record, the Gators needed to record the win to avoid their first losing season since 1979.

The season didn't go how the team wanted it, but avoiding that milestone makes it a little easier to swallow.

"It's something that helps your confidence and builds momentum," Muschamp said. "It's not going to effect one game we play next year, so I don't believe in momentum for next year. I think it's momentum for the offseason and momentum for recruiting."

It wasn't the only meaningful reason for the win.

"Twenty four straight winning seasons at Florida," Muschamp said. "That's exciting. Fourth straight bowl win-- first time in Florida history and sending the senior out the right way. We've got a lot of good kids in that locker room. We've got a lot of guys that have had a real frustrating year."

TIMING OF HIRES: The Gators have two openings on the coaching staff in strength and conditions coach and quarterback coach/offensive coordinator. Muschamp has made some progress over bowl preparation.

"Very close on the strength (coach)," Muschamp said. "Just have to finalize some things and get with Jeremy. After that, the offensive coordinator, I've got no timetable for that. We're going to work through that and make the best decision for Florida."

Muschamp said he was happy with the way that Brian White handled the interim offensive coordinator duties, but he wasn't surprised about that. White's tenure as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Syracuse made him comfortable he would handle the position well.

"It's not his first time," Muschamp said. "He has done it on a big stage before in the Rose Bowl and did it at Wisconsin for nine years. Brian is an outstanding football coach and certainly under consideration, but at the end of the day, we're going to hire the best fit for the University of Florida as we move forward."

BOSTIC'S BIG GAME: Junior linebacker Jon Bostic was one of the few players that didn't record a sack, but he made up for it with four tackles for a loss. Bostic had 7.5 total tackles.

"Jon has played well all year," Muschamp said. "He has been very consistent. We put an awful lot on the Mike linebacker as far as making calls and getting us in and out of calls. He did a nice job of shifting in the game and changing formations. Jon had a great command of what we were trying to do, but it wasn't just that. He has done it all year and been very consistent."

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