Gator Safeties Come Up Big

It was one of the big question marks heading into the 2008 season. The Ole Miss loss left more questions for the safety position when they gave up a couple of big plays for scores. By the end of the season, the Gator safety tandem of Ahmad Black and Major Wright were as good as any in the Southeastern Conference. Thursday night, they played big time to help the Gators win the BCS Championship.

Sophomore free safety Major Wright made a statement on the first series. Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford dropped back and threw a deep pass along the left sideline to a streaking Juaquin Iglesias. Sophomore cornerback Joe Haden pulled up short in his proper cover-2 defensive position and then took off after Iglesias when Bradford looked to throw his way.

Wright had the deep half of the field responsibilities and sprinted from his left hash position to hit Iglesias just as the ball arrived. The ball came loose and bounced harmlessly out of bounds. The hit Wright put on Iglesias was a statement to the Sooners that the Gators were going to be there every time they touched the ball.

The pair of starting safeties finished the night strong with 14 tackles, two interceptions, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry on the night. It was a night when the Gators were going to be tested by the nation's No. 1 scoring offense. In the end, the Gators aced the test holding the Sooners to just 14 points.

The first half saw the Gators on the ropes a few times, but the will of the Gator defense near the goal line was greater than that of Oklahoma and the Sooners. The Sooners went up and down the field in the first half a few times, but some half time adjustments caused them to slow down at the start of the half.

"We got off the field with three and outs in the start of the second half," assistant Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach Chuck Heater said. "We stopped the run a little better, that helped us play defense and control the passing game. It's a tribute to those kids they did a great job."

Holding the Sooners to just 14 points was an unfathomable task according to Heater. The Gators' defense played beyond expectations in the game.

"We never thought that," heater said about the possibility of holding them to 14 points. "I figured we would play well, but I thought they would be at least in the 20's. On a bad night they are in the 20's. They hurt us some too. We just executed plays and made some plays. I am sure Oklahoma is going to look at it as missed opportunities. Still, our kids came up with big plays. We came up with an interception at the goal line and Ahmad had an interception...all big plays."

Major Wright was vilified after week four and the loss to Ole Miss. Ahmad black has been the short, slow guy that shouldn't be on the field but has absolutely made plays in every game this season and may be the best natural ball player on the defense. Heater and the Gators owe a lot to these two guys.

"It's a tribute to him, he is a heck of a football player," Heater said of Black and his miraculous interception on a deep post route late in the second half., a play that will be remembered for a long time. "Major did a great job as well, they both played great really."

And so Heater was all tears and smiles on the field after the game with a bunch of young defenders that look to be back for another shot again next season. And they will be making many more plays along the way.

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