Special Teams, Defense Set the Tone

There were two major concerns for the No. 5 ranked Florida Gators heading into their meeting with Kentucky on Saturday. First, they had to start at 12:30, which was the same time they lost to Ole Miss. And second, they had to focus on the Wildcats with Georgia looming on the schedule.

On Saturday, the Gators came out of the locker room with energy and enthusiasm and put all those concerns aside. The offense didn't get much done in their first series, but the defense and special teams set the tone in Florida's 63-5 win over Kentucky.

"I'm very proud of our performance against a team that was 5-2," head coach Urban Meyer said after the game. "I have great respect for their coach. They're the No. 1 defense in the SEC and it's well-deserved because they've played a hard schedule."

The Gators jumped on the Wildcats fast with two blocked punts that setup consecutive one-play touchdown drives for Florida. They threw 28 points up on the scoreboard ultimately leading to the one-sided affair.

"The score wasn't indicative of what we did," Meyer said. "Obviously, the blocked kicks and the way the game started and playing great defense was the difference. Our players believe in it, our staff believes in it and if we play that way usually we win the game."

Florida blocked two punts in the first quarter, setting up their first two scores. William Green got his hand on the first with Jeff Demps knocking down the second.

"We're a punt block team," Meyer said. "I don't know if anyone works any harder. We have some very dynamic personnel out there. We didn't necessarily see something it was the field position."

The Gators' Joe Haden also blocked a field goal attempt leading to another touchdown for Florida.

"Defense and special teams, that's about as good as you can do," Meyer said. "That was about as good as you get to start a game."

Demps not only blocked a kick, but he also broke a dump pass for a 61-yard touchdown. The true freshman finished the day with seven carries for 50 yards and four receptions for 67 yards.

"Jeff Demps, I have not been around a more valuable guy at blocking kicks," Meyer said. "Then he takes that pass."

When Demps caught the pass for a touchdown at the start of the second half, Meyer knew he was gone as the play was developing.

"When he caught the ball, I started looking for the extra point team," Meyer said. "He's a fast dude. He was struggling catching the ball and struggling doing this, but he's worked so hard. That's a name you have to get used to because he's going to be around here a long time."

The Gators also got a touchdown from their defense. Ahmad Black returned a pick 40 yards for a touchdown. On the day, the Florida defense limited Kentucky to 268 total yards and 5-of-17 on third down conversions. Both the defense and special teams have contributed to Florida scoring 114 points in their last two games.

"One [score] was an interception return and two were special teams," Meyer said. "I'm very pleased with it, but we played a field position game in both games. It doesn't' matter what kind of offense you're running if you have an offensive line. And that ‘s what you've seen over the last two weeks, our offensive line is playing very well. If your defensive line controls the line of scrimmage you can do whatever you want and that's what we've had the last two games."

Tebow played decent, completing 11-of-15 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw an interception and fumbled twice, but both were picked up by the Gators. He ran nine times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, tying him with Emmitt Smith at 26 for the school's all-time career rushing touchdown record.

Florida shook up their pre-game routine a bit to get ready for Saturday's early start. They did not want another repeat of the Ole Miss game.

"We changed a little bit of our routine," Meyer said. "Some people think weight coaches put weights on the barbells, but ours are a little more involved than that. We did adapt some things, and our energy level in the locker room was different than any other 12:30 game."

Meyer also credited the crowd of 90,589 for providing some energy for the early start that combined with some bad weather.

"Our crowd, that was not good, it was phenomenal," Meyer said. "This is a special place. Tebow came up to me and said that crowd was absolutely electric and that doesn't happen for a 12:30 game."

The Gators now turn their attention to Georgia where the winner will have the inside track to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. Meyer likes the disposition of his team heading into this very important week.

"You're dealing with young people, but this team is grown up a little bit," he said. "I like dealing with professionals. I like dealing with grown men. I get a little tired dealing with children. You're starting to see a little maturity level here. The more that I'm around this team I'm confident that they're going to go about their business."

Notes

  • Janoris Jenkins left the game with a bruised shin, but Meyer said he is very probable for next week.
  • Emmanuel Moody was described by Meyer as 80 percent and he expects him to be at full strength by midweek.
  • Phil Trautwein has a sore shoulder but should be ready for Georgia.
  • Meyer was very pleased with the play of Will Hill who led the Gators on Saturday with 11 tackles. Said Meyer, "He played well. He was in the game early. He had a hamstring injury a few weeks ago. But we're getting close to a three-safety team. We'd like to get a little rotation going. He's excellent on special teams. I think I saw him have four tackles out there today. His attitude is good. He's starting to act like a grown man."
  • Meyer updated a couple a guys that didn't get in on Saturday – Troy Epps has a sore knee, Torrey Davis didn't meet team expectations during the week and John Brown is still out with a wrist injury.


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