Tale of Two Halves for Haden, Gator D

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The first and second halves were night and day for the Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden. The junior had one of the worst performances of his career before halftime but rebounded to help the Gators escape with a 24-14 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Gators' defense let up 140 passing yards in the first half including a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Weslye Saunders over the head of Joe Haden. Saunders caught Haden off guard with the route he ran for the touchdown.

"I was playing a little out of technique," Haden said. "On the corner route he ran on me, I didn't think he was going to go that far. The corner route usually goes around 15 yards; he was about 20. I played a little off that first half."

It wasn't just Haden that was off in the first half though. Florida's defense, which came into the game giving up just more than 10 points per game, allowed the Gamecocks to score 14 in the first half. The unit also gave up 206 total yards before halftime, just 26 yards less than its season average for a whole game.

UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong made sure during halftime that things changed when his team took the field in the second half.

"He let us hear it," Haden said. "He said we're not playing like the Gator defense, and I knew for a fact that we wasn't, just doing stuff we don't usually do and people just messing up on their assignments. We had to slow it down."

The defense got the message.

For the fourth straight game, the Gators' defense did not give up an offensive touchdown to an opponent.

The Gamecocks were only able to total 41 yards of offense in the second half.

Haden turned it around to lead the Gators with 11 tackles and added an interception to give the ball back to the offense for the game's final drive.

With the Florida offense struggling, USC was not out of the game. Driving down the field for at least a potential game-tying field goal, UF defensive end took all the momentum away with an interception of a batted pass.

Trattou returned it 53 yards to the South Carolina 26-yard line before tripping over teammate Jermaine Cunningham, but Haden thought he would have a better chance of taking it further.

"I wanted him to pitch it back to me," Haden said.

No one on the defense was surprised Trattou came up with the big play. The players have just come to expect someone to make a game-changing play.

"We feel like if they give us a place to stand, at the one-yard line — the two-yard line anywhere to stand — then the next play can be our play," Haden said.

While the Gators are not winning pretty, they couldn't be happier with their record. They are still enjoying themselves despite these poor performances by the offense.

"Even though we didn't win by as much as we thought we could, this is one of the best locker rooms after a win we have had this season," Haden said.

The win moves Florida to 10-0 and one step closer to a perfect season.

Although they still have obstacles ahead, Haden is starting to feel a perfect season.

"We keep getting closer and closer," Haden said. "You can't lie, sometimes you start to taste it we're 10-0, then we have FIU and then we have Florida State. Two more games then we have the SEC championship, so it's getting close."

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