Florida Gators’ defense dominates three quarters

The Florida defense carried the team through all but two drives on Saturday.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The first three quarters were an offensive nightmare for the Gamecocks. The Florida pass rush lived in the backfield, blowing up an experienced South Carolina offensive line for four sacks in the first three quarters. When quarterback Perry Orth dropped back to throw, he went 5-13 for 41 yards and one interception. On the ground, the Gamecocks had 17 rushes for three yards.

The production was limited in the first half, but it was non-existent in the third quarter, as the South Carolina offense totaled -9 yards during those 15 minutes.

“We were lining up good,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said about the first three quarters on defense. “(We) got after their tails, and for the most part, it’s pretty darn good, sound gap control defense.”

The Gamecocks managed just three first downs during the first three quarters while the Gators put up 18. While running 30 plays during the first 45 minutes of action, the South Carolina offense mustered just 44 yards. 

"That's just the standard for our defense,” Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley said. “We call ourselves the best defense in the nation. We got to play like it week in and week out. It's just all about proving that to ourselves."

The fourth quarter might have created some doubts. The Gamecocks got the ball back after a fourth down stop while trailing 17-0 with 12:16 remaining. South Carolina used an eight-play, 64-yard touchdown drive to get on the scoreboard on a trick play that saw receiver Pharoh Cooper hit quarterback Perry Orth on a 17-yard pass.

After the Gators went three-and-out on offense, the Gamecocks found the end zone on a five-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Orth to Cooper. After Florida was in control for the first three quarters, the defense got gashed for 143 yards on 13 plays during the two-drive span.

“We got out of our gaps a little bit and trying to do too much there on the last drive, especially in the rush lanes,” McElwain said.

The players chalked it up to miscommunication during the drives. They feel the success during the first three quarters is more indicative of what they can do instead of the struggles during the fourth quarter.

When the lead was down to 17-14, the Florida offense put together a touchdown drive to take a 10-point lead and let the defense go back to work. Quincy Wilson intercepted Orth to erase any doubt, but the Florida defense still saw plenty to work on after the game.

“We played good when we're communicating and everybody is on the same page,” Brantley said. “When you've got linebackers, d-line playing one defense and the secondary playing another one, it doesn't work out."

When the Gators needed a play on Saturday, it usually came from the defensive line. Six of the team’s seven tackles for a loss came from defensive linemen, led by 1.5 sacks for Jordan Sherit, who sat out for the first half because of a targeting penalty last week. Freshman CeCe Jefferson also had two tackles for a loss.

“It’s just a culture that we kind of developed and built for ourselves,” Sherit said. “Coach Rumph does a good job and I mean all the guys, man, it’s a great room to be in. We’re all competitive, push each other to get better. It’s fun. We develop so much more. Every week of football, every week of practice we’re getting better and improving. It’s fun to be around. It really is.”


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