Defense Learning to Make Adjustments

The Florida Gators defense held Arkansas to a shutout in the first half of the game Saturday in Fayetteville, but in doing so gave up 238 offensive yards in the first two quarters. Some adjustments were made after half time and although the Razorbacks did score a touchdown in the third quarter, they were held to just another 113 yards in the second half. The adjustments seemed to work.

The Gators certainly showed a bend don't break mentality between the 25-yard lines early in the game Saturday. Arkansas rolled down the field on every possession and then when they would get near the goal line, the defense would make their stand and keep them out.

It isn't exactly what you want from your defense, but it does show some back bone for a group that is still considered young and a little banged up at the linebacker position.

"If a team makes a play on you, you have to bow your back when it comes time," sophomore defensive end Justin Trattou said Sunday. "The last thing you want to do is let them score a touchdown. If someone makes a big play you can't just fold up and let them finish. I think our defense showed some character when it comes to that."

That held true for a half and a part of the third quarter when Arkansas was finally able to put a drive together and finish it with a score. Some adjustments were made at that point and it was basically lights out for the Arkansas offense.

"Early in the game they started running crossing routes and we had a game plan to stop that," Black said. "We played more low hole coverage."

The low hole coverage was playing a man defense instead of a zone giving up the middle of the short field. It meant that every receiver and back was being covered close to the line of scrimmage and kept the linebackers from having to try and cover so much middle space in their zone drops.

"After halftime, closer to the end of the third quarter we started to play more man coverage," sophomore linebacker Brandon Hicks said. "They weren't getting it off too good after that and before that they were running more wide open across the middle. We were playing more zone, but we just had to buckle down and get our man and be one-on-one."

Of course football isn't this simple. You just can't go into a game or a season saying we are going to play man defense or zone defense all the time. The schemes have to be mixed up or any coordinator in the SEC will be able to take advantage of it.

"If we can play bump and run all day, that is cool, but we know you can't play the same defense every play," Hicks said. "Every offense will find a loophole in the defense, so you need to change it up every time."

Part of the help in the second half came from a somewhat rejuvenated pass rush. The defensive line was getting a little push from the front four and Trattou says the hard work in practice paid off in that aspect.

"I think we have been playing real hard and making a lot of improvement," Trattou said. "I think we need to keep getting better every game and taking steps forward. I think our pass rush got better this week we had a little more emphasis on that because we knew they would pass the ball."

Trattou understands that the big game with LSU this week poses a whole new set of issues up front. The LSU offensive line is a very good one and the Gators will have to play their best.

"We have to keep going on that track, but at the same time with LSU coming in we have to be able to stuff the run and play against those big offensive linemen," Trattou said. "I remember their offensive line from last year being real talented, we just have to watch film and see how good they are."

Last season the game with LSU was tough with a close loss on the road. LSU was able to convert an unheard of five fourth down conversions in the game to win it. Ahmad Black knows the Gators have to play a little more stout up front in this game.

"We know we have to stop that now and be tougher in the trenches," he said. "We just got in the weight room a little harder this year and we have trust in the system that we will get in there and make a play."

The injuries at linebacker have been a concern, but the Gators hope to have junior linebacker Ryan Stamper back this week. However, Hicks played well on Saturday in his starting role in the absence of Dustin Doe who had surgery for a double hernia in the middle of last week.

"I think I did pretty good, I did my job and didn't give up any big plays," Hicks sad about his game against the Razorbacks. "I had only one thing on my mind and that was to run hard to the ball and make the play every time."

Big plays were a concern against Ole Miss in the loss the week before. According to Ahmad Black, the big plays are something they have to forget about when they happen and play ball.

Black attests that the defense has a real ability to forget the play before, when something bad happens. He thought back to the Ole Miss game and the 86 yard touchdown strike that ended up being the game winner for Ole Miss, the next drive the Gator defense came out and showed its mettle.

"Amnesia in football is a good thing," Black said. "Once that happened we still had chances to win the game. We went out there the next drive and stopped them three and out...we know we can't give up the big plays like that."

Black and his defensive counterparts are totally focused on the task at hand this week. Earlier in the day on Sunday was when he even realized there would be a Saturday off the following week due to the bye in the schedule.

"We aren't worried about the bye week, we are just worried about LSU," he said. "I just found out it was the bye week after, I thought we were playing Kentucky afterwards."

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During the game on Saturday in Fayetteville, two Gator players were shoved on the Arkansas sideline by an unidentified person in two separate incidents. . The person was wearing Arkansas colors and was standing by a bunch of coaches, but not dressed as a coach.

Hicks was one of the players that was shoved hard enough by this person that he was sent sprawling backwards and tripped over one of his own players and to the ground. Instead of retaliating, Hicks tried to seek the help of an official standing near who would hear none of it. Hicks believes it was a non-dressed player doing the shoving.

"I have no clue, I think he was a player," Hicks said about the person and incident. "I was like 'ref, did you see that?'...he was like, 'shut up and go to your huddle, and don't worry about it.'"

I would be shocked if these incidents were not reported.

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Black had a moment of levity Sunday when asked about almost committing to LSU as a high school prospect.

Going back to the time when he was recruited, Black was in the middle of the summer between his junior and senior year of high school. He had already been to camp at LSU and earned an offer. He was all set to commit to LSU after hearing a bunch from Florida but no offer when he decided he would camp at Florida and see what happened.

He came to camp over a three day stay and shortly after leaving, he got an offer from the Gators. He along with Lakeland High School teammates John Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Chris Rainey, Steve Wilkes and Paul Wilson all would become Gators. Black made his decision clear that weekend.

"I almost committed to LSU," Black said grinning and after a little thought as to what to say. "The day I committed here, I was supposed to commit there."


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