Defense needs Improvement

If there's any concern with the Florida Gators after their win against Kentucky on Saturday, it's with the defense. The Gators allowed more than 500 yards, and despite Jermaine Cunningham earning SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week honors, Urban Meyer wasn't so quick to recognize any individual performances.

The Gators did record a season-high six sacks. They did hold the Wildcats to less than 100 yards rushing. But they also allowed Andre Woodson to pass for 415 yards.

"We are not playing Florida defense," Urban Meyer said on Monday. "There are a lot of encouraging signs, but that was not Florida defense. We gave up far too many yards, but we did pressure the quarterback really for the first time. We felt that he was under duress, but he still made a lot of great plays and an inordinate amount of yardage and first downs."

The Gators allowed 21 first downs with four coming on fourth down. Kentucky was 4-of-5 on fourth down conversions, and that raises some concern with Meyer after allowing LSU to go 5-of-5 on fourth down conversions two weeks ago.

"It cost us a game and it could have cost us a game on Saturday," Meyer said. "I'm very concerned. It comes with experience and talent. We just need to keep coaching fundamentally and get better."

After finally getting some pressure into the backfield on Saturday, some of the defensive line concerns have subsided. Meyer especially liked the play the Gators got from true freshman defensive tackle Torrey Davis.

"He's got a great first step," Meyer said. "He's given us a little more penetration that we haven't had. He's got a great coach working with him. His biggest thing is getting in shape and his effort level. So everyday, after practice, Coach Mattison is running him, and it's starting to show up. He made a difference in that game."

The concerns lie mostly within the secondary. Freshman cornerback Joe Haden may have graded out as a champion, but Meyer said he played too soft in coverage.

"We need tighter coverage and at some points you have to knock the ball down or go intercept a pass," Meyer said. "Not one that is tipped to you, have to step in front and make a play and that comes with confidence and experience. I was hoping we would be much further along than we are but I also appreciate and see what's going on. If I saw them give in and saw the top of the helmets when they are coming off then the red flags would be up. I don't see that at all, I see guys trying to get better."

Other champions on defense included Derrick Harvey, Javier Estopinan, Brandon Spikes, Tony Joiner and Jermaine Cunnigham. Meyer did not name a player of the game on defense because of the amount of yards allowed.

Unselfishness a key on offense

Yes, the Gator offense looked more like the offense at the beginning of the season that blew out Tennessee. But there is a significant difference between the offense of September and the offense heading into November – a greater level of unselfishness.

"Every great team that I have ever witnesses, there are two characteristics," Meyer said. "Their unselfish approach to the game and being accountable for one another. For the first time I can stand up in front of you and say that I am starting to witness that a little bit. We are certainly not a great team, but I see the signs up everywhere."

It's not easy to measure unselfish play. It rarely shows up in the stat sheet, but the coaching staff picks it out when they evaluate the game film each week.

"Unselfish play is your left tackle on kickoff return," Meyer said. "With our kickoff return unit, there is blood in the water and they are sharks all over the place. That is one way and another way is perimeter blocking and another way is to spread around the football and not worry about who gets what pass."

Kestahn Moore only rushed six times and caught a pair of passes, but his unselfish play was recognized by the coaches.

"Kestahn Moore was a lead block 16 yards down the field on Bubba Caldwell's 20-yard run," Meyer said. "He knocked the guys legs out. It is very easy to identify unselfish play."

Harvin usually stuffs the stat sheet, but his downfield blocks were recognized, too.

"He is a strong player," Meyer said. "On one of Bubba's runs he blocked a linebacker. The guy is 225 pounds, and he got under his pads underneath him. Pound for pound, he is as strong a player as we have on this team. He has it all. There is nothing lacking there."

Injury Report

Freshman safety Major Wright underwent surgery on Monday to fix his broken right thumb, but Meyer said he will be ready for Saturday's matchup with Georgia.

Sophomore wide receiver Riley Cooper also has a broken finger and he'll have two screws inserted so he can play against the Bulldogs.

"The positive about those two guys is there is not two tougher players that I have been around," Meyer said.

The beaten up offensive line will take another hit as Carlton Medder is questionable for Saturday's game with a sore heel. And on the defensive side, Brandon Antwine is still out with a sore lower back.

Notes

  • The Homecoming matchup with Vanderbilt will be televised on Lincoln Financial and is scheduled to kickoff at 12:30 p.m.
  • At one point this season, the Gators ranked second to last nationally in penalties committed. On Saturday, they committed just four. Said Meyer: "It's a just a little bit of maturity, although there were three or four significant penalties. Last year, someone said that we were the most penalized team in America and that was a pretty good team at the end."
  • Offensive champions included Cornelius Ingram, Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Tim Tebow and Eric Rutledge. Andre Caldwell was Offensive Player of the Game.


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