Five Keys to Finishing Strong

The SEC East is still a possibility, but that's not the focus for this Florida football team. At least it shouldn't be. Oh there's nothing wrong with holding out hope that things break right and the Gators get to return to Atlanta to defend their SEC Title, but the focus needs to be on getting back to playing good football and winning the final four games of the regular season.

Florida started 4-0, but the Gators have lost three of their last four games. The biggest issue has been the play of the Gator defense and the stats spell it out loud and clear.

First four gamesLast four games
19.5 Points Allowed 29.3
54.5 Rushing Yards 159.8
.281 3rd Down Conv. .554

Oh the offense has also dropped off significantly, but the Gators have averaged 29 points a game the last four times out, and that should be enough to win. Only the Auburn game stands out where the offense didn't do enough to win.

So Florida heads into the month of November trying to get it together and finish up with a 9-3 record. Here are what I see as the five keys to making that happen.

Rushing defense --- As indicated above, Florida has not been stopping people on the ground and it's a big part of why the Gators are near the bottom of the SEC in generating three-and-out series on defense. When you are depleted defensively, getting off the field becomes more and more important. Florida must tackle better and the young defensive linemen must step up to the challenge that is falling on them beginning this week.

Saddle up Percy --- The most dynamic talent on campus must be utilized more often. Certainly there is a risk in asking Harvin to do too much, but it is a risk Florida has to take. Harvin is averaging 7.7 yards on 43 runs and 16.8 yards on 36 receptions. That means Harvin has gained 11.8 per touch for the 79 times he's had the ball. Here's one vote for getting Harvin a minimum 16 touches a game from here on out.

Force turnovers --- A big part of the Gators' success last year was the ability of the Florida defense to take the ball away from its opponents. The Gators averaged better than two takeaways a game last year, but have just nine in eight games this year. A drop off of one turnover per game is dramatic and needs to change immediately. The lack of a playmaker at free safety certainly is a factor, but someone on that side of the ball must start making plays.

Getting/keeping Tebow healthy --- As amazing as this kid's season has been, it's not a good thing when your quarterback is viewed nationally as the most important player to his team of anyone in the country. Getting Tebow relief from running the ball too much is a step in keeping him healthy and diversifying the offense, which is a "two-fer". It's time to forgive Kestahn Moore the occasional fumble and let him provide the much needed inside running that keys this offense.

Get mad --- You can call this regaining a little swagger or whatever you like, but it seems the attitude around Gator Nation is one of trying to survive from Saturday to Saturday. That's a bunch of hooey! It's time for the Gators to enter the stadium, any stadium with the mind set of kicking butt and taking names. Don't take what the defense gives you; take what you damn well please. Don't try to avoid giving up the big play, MAKE the big play. I know it's tough to be cocky and arrogant after losing three of four, but it needs to happen. Boys, it's time to play with a chip on your shoulder.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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