After the Ole Miss offense scored 43 points at Alabama two weeks ago, the Gators knew from the film that they would have to play well. But they also felt like all the talk was about what Ole Miss could do and not about what the Gators could do on defense.
“This one was kind of personal,” Davis said. “We’ve seen this was a high-powered offense. They can do a lot of things, and we knew that if we play stout defense, kept the ball in our offense’s hands, we could not be stopped this game. We knew that for a fact.”
The Florida defense had two things it focused on the most during the week of preparation. First, they knew tackling had to improve, and it did. But just as important, the Gators knew they had to be more successful on first and second downs. Their issues on those downs allowed Tennessee to convert third downs and make the Florida defense stay on the field.
That wouldn’t work against Ole Miss. To make sure it didn’t happen again, the Gators knew they had to make plays in the early downs and set up obvious passing situations.
“Teams live off comfortability,” Davis said. “They live off being comfortable. We made them uncomfortable. We were watching the Vandy game this week, and I was getting upset looking at that. Vandy was playing them hard, but every third down, it was third and short. When you come here in The Swamp and play us, we’ve got to make sure we make teams uncomfortable on third down. It was third and long every time we were down there. It was awesome, man. That’s what we do.”
The defense shut Ole Miss out in the first half after the Rebels came into the game with points in every quarter of the season. Ole Miss looked poised to find the end zone with its opening drive in the second half, getting the ball down to the Florida one-yard line for first and goal. The Gators stuffed run plays on three straight snaps, and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze surprisingly elected to kick a field goal.
The Florida red zone defense is 12th in the country in touchdown percentage, allowing a touchdown 35.71 of the time when a team reaches the red zone. When opponents get close to the end zone, Davis thinks the Gators take it to another level.
“I feel like when a team gets close to scoring on us, it’s personal,” Davis said. “We had to make sure that we make a point and when we get down in that red zone, we’re going to stand tall. We’re going to fight until every ounce of energy in our body is gone. And that’s what we did down there. We held them to 3 points, and that was a big point in the game, because that pretty much knocked all of the wind out of their sails. We just let them know that we run this. No matter where we are on the field, this is ours. They drove all the way down, and we knew we had to make a stop. We knew we had to."