Not the Typical Florida Defense

Urban Meyer's message to his defense after Florida's loss to Georgia on Saturday afternoon was simple, continue to progress, but do it faster. For the second time this season, the Gators couldn't keep an opponent out of the end zone when the game was on the line.

The stat sheet following Georgia's 42-30 win over the Gators wasn't reminiscent of any stat sheet during Urban Meyer's first two seasons in Gainesville. But it's becoming all too familiar this season. Florida allowed Georgia to gain 413 total yards, which includes 217 rushing yards.

"That's not Florida defense," Meyer said. "We got a long way to go. We gave up too many yards, but our guys battled. It was a hard football game. Our opponent played very well. It was a good game to watch, but not a good game to lose."

Dawgs running back Knowshon Moreno couldn't be stopped by the Gator defense. The redshirt freshman carried 33 times, rushing for 188 yards with three touchdowns. He also hauled in two passes for 17 yards.

"It looked like we missed some tackles," Meyer said. "He's a hard runner. We had three missed tackles on the touchdown when he cut back."

The Gator defense couldn't stop the Georgia passing attack either. Matthew Stafford (11-of-18, 217 yards) didn't have an outstanding day, but the sophomore signal caller made the plays when he had to. In the fourth quarter, Stafford connected with Mikey Henderson on a 53-yard touchdown pass to extend the Georgia lead to two scores, 35-24. Then after Florida had answered with a touchdown of their own, Stafford checked his play at the line of scrimmage and converted a crucial 3rd-and-12 that led to the game-winning touchdown.

"He had a good day," Meyer said. "He beat us on the speed post a couple of times. He made the plays. We have to have tighter coverage."

Offensively, the Gators moved the ball, but it was obvious that Tim Tebow was hurting. Tebow favored his bruised right shoulder all day and clearly wasn't himself. He was sacked six times and carried only seven times, gaining 25 yards. One carry was to convert a 4th-and-1, and four of his other carries came inside the Georgia 10-yard line.

"Obviously, we went with him in the red zone because that's our best red zone stuff," Meyer said.

Tebow completed 14-of-22 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown pass. He also rushed for two scores.

Most of the Gator offense revolved around Harvin who carried 10 times for 97 yards. Harvin also caught two passes for 33 yards.

"Percy Harvin, I thought, ran tremendous," Meyer said. "We were just finding ways to put the ball in his hands."

Despite the 12 touches for Harvin, Meyer said he needed to be used even more.

"That's the gameplan," he said. "It's every week. He's one of the more dynamic players in college football. He had 10, and our goal is to have 15. I'd like to get him the ball a little bit more than that."

The Gators drop to 3-3 in the SEC and will trail Georgia and either the winner of Tennessee/South Carolina by one game for the right to go to Atlanta. After their win against Kentucky last week put them in control of their destiny, they now find themselves back where they were two weeks ago, needing other teams to lose.

"A lot of things can happen in college football in the next five weeks," Meyer said.

But the Gators also need to improve their own play and that begins with stopping the run.

"Last year we were a top five team in America in rush defense," Meyer said. "It's a combination of a bunch of things. Our defensive line is banged up, and at times I don't feel like the rush has been there. Guys are starting to progress now, but that should have happened 11 weeks ago."

At the beginning of the season, the Gator defense was holding it's own, but now as the competition has gotten better, both the secondary and defensive line have been exposed.

"I think we're facing some decent offenses," Meyer said. "It seems like we're so loose in coverage right now. Our corners are getting beat when they are singled up. We're just not playing very good defense right now."

The "Incident"

There was an unusual event on the field following Georgia's first quarter touchdown. The entire Bulldog team ran out on to the field to celebrate. Meyer didn't comment on what he thought of the incident, but did try and put the event into perspective.

"That's two programs fighting for the SEC in the first half," he said. "In the second half, I thought it was the same thing. We had to make a stop and then get a score. I don't think it got out of hand. We just didn't stop them. We have to score, score, score. The last couple of years we had the kind of defense where we didn't have to score."

Meyer did tell his team in the locker room after the game to remember this loss, though.

"I told them don't ever forget what happened," he said. "We play them next year. The most important thing with this team is it's a team that has to continue to improve. Our corners need to start making plays on those balls. The d-linemen have got to improve. We had Torrey Davis in there the whole day and Lawrence Marsh. They haven't played a lot of football. We just need to continue to improve."

The SEC East title may seem distant for the Gators after Saturday's loss, but in Meyer's mind, nothing much has changed since the start of the season.

"Our goals have been clear since day one and that's compete and go as hard as we can," he said. "I don't ever expect to lose, but we knew coming into the season, it was just get better and get better. We just need to accelerate the progression. There's some great games still for the Florida Gators and momentum is a big issue with college football."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


Fightin Gators Top Stories