Defense Learned to Adapt

It took one drive for the Gator defense and their nine new starters to buckle down and start playing the kind of defense they'll need to compete in the SEC. In fact, it didn't even take one full drive. After allowing the Western Kentucky offense to drive into the red zone on the game's opening drive, the Gators defense answered the call.

Coming into the game, Florida needed to learn how its young defense would react when their backs were against the wall. But their first two opponents aren't necessarily teams that can present that challenge. The Hilltoppers came out pressuring the Gators, however, on Saturday. And Florida responded with a big play from sophomore linebacker Dustin Doe on a fourth-and-1.

"I think after that first series where they kind of drove on us a little bit we settled down," Doe said. "After that we knew we had to buckle down. Every one started to get on the same page and just play football. When they got into the red zone at the end of that first series, we knew we had to strap it up and knew we had to go play."

"We got off to a rough start with the long drive, but we stopped them," senior safety Tony Joiner said. "Overall, we played pretty good defense today."

With so many young players, especially on defense, it was important for the Gators to finally get into a game situation and iron out some of their kinks.

"Some guys are going to be forced to grow up quick, and that's how I feel about the sophomores this year," Doe said. "It's what we're doing and what we have to do is grow up quick."

The biggest thing Doe felt the defense was able to work on was their communication.

"Things could have been avoided if we had a little more communication," Doe said. "I think we saw a lot of things that we need to see outside of practice, and we just need to go back and fix them."

While the front seven grew closer together, the back four were just trying to get their feet wet. The Gators started two young corners in Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis – both were playing for the first time at the position.

"Joe and Wondy did well," Joiner said. "There were a couple of big plays that happened, but that happened with Ryan Smith and Reggie Lewis last season. They played pretty well today and played sound football. We just have to watch the film and see what the film has to say.

If the Gators can take only two things away from their win against Western Kentucky it would be to shorten drives and eliminate missed tackles. Meyer said in every loss he's had at Florida, the Gators missed more than 10 tackles.

"There were a lot of missed tackles," Joiner said. "You're never happy with missed tackles, so that's going to be something that we have to work on when we get back to practice on Monday. It'll be something that the coaches will evaluate on film on Sunday, but they won't be happy with all those missed tackles."

The Gators were also on the short end of possession time. Western Kentucky held the ball for nearly 30 minutes compared to Florida's 22 minutes. Part of it was due to quick scoring drives from the Gator offense, but the defense also allowed the Hilltoppers to sustain a few long drives.

"We just basically said we have to get off the field after third downs," Joiner said. "We had opportunities to get off the field, and we didn't capitalize on them. We talked about out how we have to get the offense on the field because we can't be on the field for long drives like that the whole game. It's going to wear and tear on our defense."

Florida also didn't force a turnover.

"Not so much of a surprise," Joiner said. "You do come into a game expecting to make turnovers, but if we don't get them, we don't get them. We just wanted to play sound football. At first we didn't play sound football, but by the end of the game we got what we wanted."

The worst thing that could have happened to Florida's defense on Saturday was the game being called for lightning. It prevented the younger players from gaining some valuable playing experience.

"That was the worst thing in the world," Joiner said. "We just wanted these young guys to get some exposure and get used to playing in The Swamp. It was tough sitting there waiting to see if we could play."

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