The Gators finished out their SEC schedule in dramatic fashion on Saturday, hanging on to win a close one against the Missouri Tigers 14-7. While the Gator offense struggled the whole day to sustain drives, the Gator defense came to the rescue getting a game-sealing interception by Josh Evans, their fourth of the game, with under 5 seconds left in the game.
After Florida had missed a chip shot field goal which would have all but sealed the game, Missouri took over at their own 20 yard line with 1:49 left to go. They promptly drove to the Gator 21 yard line where they faced a 4th and 6. Franklin dropped to pass and under a heavy pass rush he threw the ball into the endzone and right into the waiting hands of senior safety Josh Evans clinching the victory for the Gators.
While much media and fan attention this season has been focused on the Florida Gator offense and it’s struggles, lost in translation was the fantastic and consistent performance of the Gator defense. This unit is currently fifth in the nation in total defense giving up 287 total yards per game and only 12 touchdowns. They’ve been a top five unit all season and remarkably they have been consistently good in every game.
Against Missouri it was more of the same. They shut down the Tiger rushing game holding them to 99 yards on 35 carries a 2.8 yards per carry average. They got a good pass rush out of their front four allowing them to matchup in nickle all day against the five wide sets that the Tigers employ. It can’t be stressed enough how good the Gator defensive line did at not only getting a pass rush but also how well they controlled the run with their front four. This freed the linebackers and nickel db’s to stay in coverage and prevent big plays.
The Gator defensive backs and linebackers played tough coverage all afternoon, and they did a great job of keeping plays in front of them, as well as a fantastic job of tackling in space preventing them from creating big plays. Their patience in the secondary paid off as eventually Franklin made mistakes and turned the ball over. Four times he threw picks two of which led to Gator touchdowns on short drives. They were the difference in the game.
The defensive line played perhaps their best game this season as freshman Jonathan Bullard, filling in for the injured Larentee McCray, and Dante Fowler wreaked havoc on Franklin. The Gators got four sacks in this game and continuously harassed Franklin forcing him to scramble and throw passes away. They also forced him into an intentional grounding penalty early in the fourth quarter which helped force a punt by the Tigers.
While the Gator defense did give up some yardage to Missouri, overall, they put in another spectacular effort and showed that, by far, this unit is the backbone of this team.