Doe, Defense Growing Whiskers

The Gator defense has a simple philosophy. No matter where you are, no matter what you're doing – run to the ball. On Saturday night, sophomore linebacker Dustin Doe was just running to the ball when he scooped up a fumble and took it back 18 yards for a touchdown.

"Our goal on defense is to play position football, play within yourself and run to the ball," Dustin Doe said. "Every game, no matter what happens, you have to run to the football. In that situation, I just happened to be running to the football and it came to me, and I took it into the end zone."

Doe's third quarter touchdown was a monumental game changer. On the Gators' first possession of the second half, Tim Tebow was intercepted, which Tennessee's Eric Berry returned 96 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Gator lead to eight points. On the ensuing drive, the offense was forced to punt, giving the Vols a chance to narrow the margin even more.

But on the first play, tailback Arian Foster couldn't handle the hand off from quarterback Erik Ainge, and the ball hit the ground.

"You live for opportunities like these," Doe said. "I was just happy that I was able to capitalize and give the defense six points. The game changed. We're going to come in and look at the stat sheet, and we're going to see a game changer. It's not going to say Dustin Doe, it's going to say defense. That's where all my pride comes in."

Much had been said about the Gators coming into this week's game against Tennessee, and the Vols ability to run the football. But the Gators held Tennessee to just 37 yards rushing on 21 attempts.

"Our defense went out and played smash mouth defense," Doe said. "We held our gaps and ran to the football. They got 37 yards, but it didn't really surprise me because we did what we were told to do at practice all week."

Doe came out in the second half after playing a role in a Tennessee touchdown just before the half. The Vols scored on a two-minute drill that cut the Gator lead to a more manageable 15 points with 25 seconds left in the second quarter. On a pass play that resulted in a touchdown, there was a miscommunication between Doe and Major Wright.

"As a defensive player, you can't live off the plays that came before," Doe said. "I went into the second half and had forgotten all about it. Coach [Charlie] Strong told me to play within myself and don't worry about it. If I had carried that play with me, I may have not made the play. But I forgot about it, I ran my keys, I ran to the ball and I had a touchdown."

The Gators' defensive effort on Saturday was a big confidence boost for the young team.

"Confidence is an overused word," head coach Urban Meyer said. "You say confidence, but if you've never done it, how can you be confident? That's a much different team in the there when we sang the fight song than from a couple of weeks ago. We're starting to see whiskers grow on their faces. When I say whiskers, I mean that they're growing up a little bit."

Doe said the defense is more confident, but that all will be determined by what the film from the Tennessee win shows.

"You saw a lot of good things out there, but I'm sure there were a lot of bad things, too," Doe said." Confidence comes in the film room when you watch your mistakes and learn from them. That's where our confidence is going to come from."

"Did they have confidence two weeks ago, no," Meyer said. "If they said they did, they were lying because they don't know. This is just for the first step, but there is a little confidence now on the defensive side of the ball."

At least for now, the defense may have been able to silence the critics just a bit.

"We don't really care what all the critics say," Doe said. "This just gives them something else to talk about. They're going to talk – good or bad. All the hard work, I believe, takes place in the locker room and meeting rooms. I don't really care what the critics think. For us, I'm just glad we got a win and we're establishing some confidence."

Despite the critics, the Gator defense and its nine new starters are just focused on what they can control.

"We take every game as a personal challenge," Doe said. "One of our keys to victory, and it doesn't matter who we're playing, is to establish a great run defense. It's been like that since day one. So when everyone is talking about, we weren't worried about it. We just knew we had to run to the football and play Gator football."

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