Defense Ratchets it Up in Second Half

The Florida Gators beat SEC East foe South Carolina 24-14 on Saturday. The offense came out smoking while the usually hard nosed and stubborn defense was a little giving at times early on in the game. When things got tight in the second half, Carlos Dunlap and company turned up the intensity a notch or two. The second half was something special by this version of the Gator defense.

At halftime the score was 17-14 and the Gator defense gave up an uncharacteristic two touchdowns in the opening half. Carlos Dunlap made mention that there were some alignment issues.

"We came in at halftime and made the changes we needed to make on defense and we started to make some plays," he said. "In the beginning they did a couple of things we weren't expecting and hit us in a couple of places where guys weren't where they were supposed to be. The guy that was supposed to be there got in his gap (in the second half) and then we just swarmed to the ball."

A fourth quarter touchdown gave the Gators a two score advantage for the first time in the game and it was all the Gator defense needed to turn on the jets and get after South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia.

That fourth quarter score by Tim Tebow was set up by a terrific defensive play from defensive end Justin Trattou who intercepted a tipped pass on the first play of the quarter and ran it back 53 yards to the Gamecock 26-yard line.

Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap knew that was a big play for the defense and the entire team.

"I think that was the dagger," Dunlap said of the interception. "That was the game changing play right there. The return helped the most. He was running like he was being chased by a dog."

The Gators were actually facing a critical time in the game, still only up by the same 17-14 score. Garcia helped drive the Gamecocks to the Florida 22-yard line when he was intercepted. According to Dunlap, the defense relishes this type of scenario.

"We thrive on pressure, being in a big time situation like that," he said. "We know we have to come out and make a play and we just made the play...We train that hard in the offseason so at times like that we expect someone to make a play. We expect everybody to make a play."

From that point on the defense was relentless. They had three drives of minus-8, minus-8, and minus-9 to end the fourth quarter, including four sacks, a forced fumble, and another interception. With a 10-point lead, the Gator defense was able to go in "feeding frenzy" mode.

"After we got up a couple of points we knew they were going to come out and pass and when teams pass it, it just makes it easier for us to pass rush," Dunlap said. "As a result we got more sacks, more tipped passes and more big plays. Everybody teed of and used their best pass rushing moves and the playmakers made some plays."

It was a tale of two halves for both sides of the ball. The offense came out and played well in the opening half. While the Gator defense didn't. After some second half adjustments, the Gator defense really played well and the offense hit a wall. Dunlap knows that the team is what is winning these games and different portions of the team step up at different times.

"Being fortunate to be No. 1, we always want to come out and do our best," he said. "But like today, when one side of the ball struggled, the other side stepped it up for them. That is how a team works and that is how we train, and we are expected to do that."

Second halves have been pretty strong for Florida on defense lately and a big reason why is depth. The line has been adding players coming back from injury and that depth up front has been paying off late in games when the Gators can continue to bring fresh talent to the line.

"We have everybody back healthy, so we definitely have a two deep now," Dunlap said. "Before we only had one at certain positions, so now we have a two deep with everyone healthy."

Dunlap is trying to relish these wins. It isn't every year teams go 8-0 in the SEC and are ranked No. 1 this far into the season. It has been a tough road so far.

"Mississippi State was big for us and helped us put everything into perspective to know we have to enjoy it," Dunlap said. "We only get to live it once...There is no point in being 10-0 if you don't take a chance and just live in the moment."

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