Florida, by no means, played great defensively against South Carolina. They allowed the Gamecocks to go up-and-down the field, gaining 384 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Plus, they allowed South Carolina to come back from a 13-0 deficit to take an early lead.
But a lot of good things came out of the win over the Gamecocks, and a lot of great things came from their win against Vanderbilt. Looking at the trends, this is a defense that has made strides, maybe not huge strides, but definitely strides throughout the season.
Turnovers –-- Against both Vandy and South Carolina, the Gators forced three turnovers. We all know that turnovers are on Urban Meyer's plan to win, and he puts a huge emphasis on protecting the football as well as forcing opponents to cough it up. In their first eight games, they forced a total of NINE turnovers. They've almost matched that number in the last two weeks.
Pressure on the QB --- The Gators have done a much better job in pass defense in recent weeks. Against South Carolina and Vanderbilt combined, Florida has broken up 12 passes and hurried the quarterback six times. This is a vast improvement compared to their earlier numbers. Through the first eight games of the season, the Gator defense broke up 27 passes for an average of 3.3 per game. They've nearly doubled their performance in the last two weeks. And through the first eight games, the Gators recorded just seven total quarterback hurries – one more than in the last two games combined.
More Punts –-- Florida's defense has done a much better job of getting off the field in recent weeks, especially compared to the month of October when they really struggled. Against Georgia, LSU and Kentucky, the Gators forced just two punts in each game. But they forced Vanderbilt to punt five times and the Gamecocks four times. It's pretty simple, more punts means fewer punts for the opponent and more possessions for the Gators.
3rd Down Conversions --– The Gators started the season doing a good job stopping third down conversions, but it gradually got worse before killing them against Georgia. The Dawgs converted 10-of-13 third downs, including a 3rd-and-12 in the fourth quarter that allowed them to go down the field and finish off the Gators. The defense has responded well by limiting Vandy to 9-of-18 before having their best performance in an SEC game this season against South Carolina. The Gators limited the Gamecocks to just 2-of-12 on third down conversions.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski
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