Gator Defense Benefits from Case of Alzheimer's

<img src=http://www246.pair.com/autoybkh/albums/albun22/7475764_G.thumb.jpg align=right>It was on the flight back from Knoxville last week that the Florida defense developed a sudden case of Alzheimer's disease. Short term memories of a difficult performance in a 30-28 loss to Tennessee were erased on that flight back, and instead of dwelling on what went wrong, the focus turned to Kentucky, which was coming off a 50-point effort in a win over Indiana.

In particular, the Gators focused attention on stopping the Wildcats quarterback, Shane Boyd.

"In the game of football, you have to have a short memory, especially in the secondary," said cornerback Vernell Brown. Against Tennessee, the Florida secondary was torched for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Saturday, Kentucky tried 35 passes and completed 17 but only for 134 yards, less than four yards per attempt..

"Once a play is over, you have to move on to the next play, and once a game is over, you move on to the next game," said Brown, the 5-8, 155-pound cornerback from Gainesville. "All this week, we only thought about Kentucky and making sure we corrected the mistakes we made against Tennessee. We put the Tennessee game behind us completely."

Tennessee had 403 yards of total offense last week, but the swarming Gator defense held Kentucky to 207 with 56 of those yards on the Wildcats initial possession which netted their only points of the game. Kentucky had four of its 10 first downs on the scoring drive.

The defensive effort was highlighted by disciplined play with players flying to the football. It was rare that only one Gator tackled the Kentucky ball carrier. Usually, there were two or three. Instead of overpursuit and players continually out of position, the Gators stayed in their lanes and made plays, forcing six three and outs by the Kentucky defense. Of Kentucky's 13 possessions, the Gators allowed Kentucky only four drives that took more than five plays.

"We worked all week on being more aggressive," said defensive tackle Ray McDonald, who had two tackles for loss. "We turned the intensity up in practice all week because we knew we had to do our part. We just put last week behind us and we came out today to play hard.

"We knew we had to stop number seven (Boyd), He's the key to their offense and if you shut him down, you shut down what they're doing. I think we shut him down pretty well today. Everybody knew their assignment and did it."

Said freshman linebacker Brandon Siler, who had a key third down stop, tackling tailback Rafael Little for a one yard loss on a sweep, "You have to do your assignment and trust the other guys to do their job, too. When you're facing a quarterback like that (Boyd) who can run and throw, you have to do your assignments, and you have to trust the guy next to you that he's going to do his job, too. I think we went out there today and trusted each other."


Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd (7) gets hit by Florida's Ray McDonald (95) and Joe Cohen in th first half

The Gators forced two turnovers, one an interception by Terrence Holmes, the other a fumble recovered by Channing Crowder. It was the fumble that defined the day for the defense.

On Kentucky's second possession of the third quarter, the Wildcats tried to option on Florida's left side on third and seven. Boyd came down the line but before he could turn upfield or make the pitch, he had a face to face encounter with Harris, who had lined up at defensive end. Shoulders squared, Harris unloaded, leaving his feet to explode into Boyd's chest, forcing the ball out.

"I was just doing my job," said Harris. "He came down the line to me and I just tried to blow him up. I blew him up and he coughed up the ball. We talked all week about making big plays, so I'm glad I got a chance to make a big play that helped the team."

Linebacker Earl Everett, who tied with Crowder for the team lead with eight tackles, said much of the Gator improvement could be tied to thinking less and simply reacting.

"Last week I think all of us were thinking too much about what we had to do and we were just trying too hard," he said. "This week, we knew our assignments, so when we got out on the field, we just didn't think too much. We knew what to do so we didn't think about it, we just hit people and played hard."

Brown, who also had a 43-yard punt return, thought the defensive effort is a signal of things to come.

"They tried things today and we were ready for them," he said. "We take a lot of pride in what we do. We've got good coaches and we have good players. We're going to keep improving because we really work hard and we believe in ourselves. If we do like we did this week, study hard, learn our assignments and then carry them out when we play the game, we'll be all right."

And while Saturday's great effort had everyone smiling, Brown quickly noted that Alzheimer's is already setting in on the defensive unit.

"When we leave the stadium today, we'll forget about what happened today and we'll be totally focused on Arkansas," he said. "Kentucky's behind us. Arkansas is what we're focusing on now. They're a great team and we'll have to be at our best to beat them."


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