Persistent Coaching led to Success

The Gators shut down the Tennessee Volunteers during their SEC East showdown on Saturday afternoon, but midweek, co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had a bad feeling. After allowing just 13 points, the young and inexperienced defense doesn't look so young anymore.

Head coach Urban Meyer was taking sleeping pills during the week, and he wasn't the only one.

"I've been taking quite a bit of Ambien myself," Greg Mattison said. "I think I took two pills on Wednesday night. On Wednesday, our scout team was moving the ball. My wife couldn't live with me all week because I wouldn't speak to here. She knew something was up."

But on gameday, the Gators prevailed. Forced with a challenge from the very first series of downs, Florida forced the Vols' offense off the field after three plays and a failed attempt at a first down. From that point forward, the Tennessee offense was ineffective except for one drive at the end of the first half.

"[The first stop] was huge," Mattison said. "Number one, it got us off the field. Number two, the guys came off the field and said, ‘hey, we can hold our own with anyone.' If we do what we're supposed to do and lay with the technique that we're supposed to play with, then we'll be fine."

Even though the Gators were unproven defensively, their performance on Saturday was what Mattison expects from them.

"A young man who comes to the University of Florida to play defense expects to do that," Mattison said. "And that's what we expect of the kids that we recruit. We're going to have to prove it every single game. As long as we go into a football game and say we are going to play at the top level or we won't be ready."

The bottom line was the Gators weren't going to allow Tennessee to run the football on them.

"Every game we challenge them with that, you don't run the football in our house," Mattison said. "It's our house and we have great pride in playing here, and this defense cannot let people run the football on them, and that's what they did."

But UF's performance didn't come with lots of concern. During Wednesday's practice, the scout team was running all over the starting defense.

"The scout team was doing what Tennessee does so well," Mattison said. "They started strong, and when someone was supposed to be there in practice, they weren't. When you have that kind of deal, you worry about it. How do you know it's not going to happen again on Saturday? Charlie [Strong] took the backers and showed them the film again and again. I took the front and we showed them over and over again. We told them this is what they have to do."

It wasn't so much that the defense couldn't stop the scout team. It was more that the defense wasn't doing what they were coached to do. They weren't playing disciplined football, respecting the offensive scheme.

"Guys were being too aggressive, trying to overrun the football," Mattison said. "Tennessee's whole scheme is to start it out one way and bring it back and you have to have a guy sitting there waiting for him."

On Saturday afternoon, the Gators stayed in their gaps and held the Vols' ground game to 37 yards. No play was more evident of that then when defensive end Jermaine Cunningham stopped Tennessee's receiver Brent Vinson on an end around for a loss of nine yards.

"I think a big play in that game may have been Jermaine Cunningham staying at home on that reverse," Mattison said. "Those are things that a young kid doesn't do. He worked it and worked it and then all of a sudden there was a time when it came in the game. They run a reverse and he's waiting for it."

It wasn't just the young guys who stepped up. It was the veteran defensive tackles who had been under so much scrutiny so far this season that made the big plays. Javier Estopinan and Clint McMillan took the middle away from the Vols' ground attack.

"Anytime you are strong down the middle, you have a chance," Mattison said. "Clint and Javi did a very good job."

Estopinan had lost his starting job to Brandon Antwine last week, but Antwine suffered an elbow injury during Wednesday's practice.

"He and Javier have been rotating, but in this game Javier had to go the whole game, and he really did a great job," Mattison said. "He really stepped up."


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