Muschamp reviews Arkansas, previews LSU

After Arkansas ran for 81 yards in the first quarter on Saturday night, Will Muschamp and the defensive coaching staff didn't need to make many changes. The Florida defense just needed to stay disciplined in their gaps and stop being overaggressive. When that changed, the Gators allowed just 30 yards on the ground over the final three quarters of the game in Saturday's win.

The run defense improved, and while Florida took a big lead 17-7 lead at the end of the first half, Arkansas was forced to throw the ball more than its comfortable with in the second half. It allowed the defensive line to focus on the pass rush and deliver a beating on quarterback Brandon Allen.

The Gators totaled seven quarterback hurries with two sacks. However, the Florida staff isn't as interested in those numbers as they are with making the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket.

"Defensively, I thought we affected the quarterback and were very efficient on first and 10," Will Muschamp said. "When you play an offense like Arkansas, getting them in second and 7 plus is key. We were 70 percent playing second and long. When you're able to do that against an offense like that, it says good things for what you're doing."

To no surprise, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was the defensive player of the game for Florida, along with being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

With Dominqiue Easley out at defensive tackle, the Gators need help inside. On Saturday, it came from junior college transfer Darious Cummings, who Muschamp said had the best game of the defensive tackles.

"He played very well, he really did," Muschamp said. "He played blocks extremely well. He stayed square on the line of scrimmage. He got good penetration inside. He probably played the best game of our inside guys."

The Florida offense outnumbered Arkansas by five explosive plays. The Gators didn't turn it over but forced two Arkansas turnovers.

Muschamp was happy with quarterback Tyler Murphy's day, throwing for 240 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked twice but used his legs to avoid others. That pocket presence is a big reason the Florida coaches continue to gain confidence in him. The most impressive thing Murphy did was in the two-minute drill, when the Gators went 75 yards on six plays in 1:22 to give Florida a 17-7 lead at halftime.

"Scoring before the half was huge," Muschamp said. "I can't tell you how demoralizing that is for a defense. Here you are a 10-7 game and really executed perfectly by our offensive staff. Tyler was directing our offense and getting us into the situation at midfield and giving us some opportunities to throw the ball down the field and to have the open receiver.

"We had great protection on the play and then Solomon, yards-after-catch have been huge for us this season and making that play."

Solomon Patton was the offensive player of the game after setting a career high with 124 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

"Solomon Patton's been playing at a high level creating plays after the catch," Muschamp said. "I thought the touchdown in the third quarter was a perfectly thrown ball on the back shoulder and he gets right out of it into a vertical move right down the field. Really well executed by our offense, really proud of Solomon and how he's playing. He's a great young man, works extremely hard, and has really dedicated himself to developing himself as a receiver and certainly is getting great results.

LOOKING AT THE TIGERS: Florida heads to Baton Rouge this weekend for the first time since experiencing a 41-11 loss in 2011. Jacoby Brissett started his first collegiate game that day, and an inexperienced defense struggled to stop anything LSU wanted to do.

Even though Florida beat the Tigers in Gainesville last season, the 2011 trip to Baton Rouge still sticks out in the mind of the Florida players.

"It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here," senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said. "It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth but that's the game of football. We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves, and we're looking forward to it."

That day is still carved in Muschamp's mind, too.

"Certainly it should if you're a competitor," Muschamp said about using that loss as motivation this week. "I know we have a bunch of competitive guys in the locker room. I think everybody is motivated differently, but most of the guys I've been around certainly will use that. I will."?

The Tigers present the biggest offensive challenge that the Gators have seen this season. In the conference rankings, LSU is third in scoring offense (45.5), third in passing offense (291.5) and fourth in total offense (488.8). The Gators allow just 152 yards per game through the air and will face the air attack of quarterback Zach Mettenberger and a star-studded group of receivers.

"Obviously where they've taken the next step has been in the throwing game," Muschamp said.

"Zach Mettenberger is playing at a very high level," Muschamp said. "What strikes you is he's completing 70 percent of his passes, but he's so efficient and effective throwing the vertical balls down the field. He's very accurate with the ball down the field, and that's the one thing that jumps out at you watching the tape.

"Two very talented receivers in Landry and Beckham. Beckham is also the punt returner and kick returner. He's averaging over 20 yards every time he touches the ball. I think yards after the catch is going to be critical on both of these guys. They do an outstanding job of attacking the football down the field and getting vertical yardage after it. These guys are very talented and we've got to keep them cut off down the field and do a good job of leveraging these guys in space."

The LSU defense has taken a step back after multiple hits to the NFL Draft last season. In the conference, The Tigers rank seventh in scoring defense (24.7), eighth in rushing defense (159.5), fourth in passing defense (207.5) and seventh in total defense (367). The numbers aren't all pretty, but the film still shows the Florida staff plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball for LSU.

"Everyone goes through that," Muschamp said. "They replaced a bunch of really good players that were seniors or came out early for the draft. You see where all of those guys were picked. They had a bunch of good players on their defense last year. I've got great respect for John (Chavis) and the job he does.

"They're young, but they're extremely talented. They run well, they play physical, they're gonna be fundamentally sound. We expect a good LSU defense on Saturday, that's for sure."


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