GAINESVILLE -- At least publically, No. 22 Florida’s top-ranked defense refuses to castigate an incessantly stumbling offense.
The Gators lead the Southeastern Conference in total defense -- and are ranked No. 3 nationally -- while their offense ranks an anemic 13th in the conference and No. 94 in the country.
Although the in-house standards for the two units do not appear equal, coach Will Muschamp refused to broach any potential discord in the locker room.
“Our defense doesn’t need to worry about what our offense does,” he said. “They need to play well and we didn’t play very well Saturday in Baton Rouge.”
In the Muschamp era, UF has dropped four games when allowing only 17 points (including last Saturday against LSU), but coordinator D.J. Durkin said the defense doesn’t feel like it has to play a perfect game to win.
“We didn’t play well enough to win in this past game. Defensively, we focus on and talk to our guys all the time about control the controllables,” he said. “We have plenty of things in our room that we need to control that we can control. That’s what our focus is. There were plenty of things in that game that we could have done better, as coaches, as players on the defensive side of the ball that would have given us a better chance to win. We didn’t do that. That’s what our focus is, like it is every week. We hold our guys to a high standard in our room. We feel we are a great defense and we need to play that way. And we need to play that way consistently.”
Just last season, Florida was a resilient second-half team, dominating the majority of fourth quarters in route to an 11-2 year.
The Gators rallied in wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, but in 2013, UF is 0-2 when trailing at the half.
“We’re not very good playing from behind,” senior safety Jaylen Watkins said.
Muschamp, frustrated by the lack of explosive plays, admitted Florida struggles when getting behind, especially with so many negative plays too.
“We get behind we have a hard time converting in those situations,” he said.
FRESHMEN PROVIDE SPARK
Wideout Ahmad Fulwood and tailback Kelvin Taylor were lone bright spots for Florida's offense in the loss to LSU last weekend.
Fulwood, a rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver from Bishop Kenny, nabbed a pair of catches (two receptions for 19 yards) against the Tigers, including a 15-yard gain on 4th-and-9 late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s starting to get in there and get the feel of the game and play to the speed of the game,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “He works hard in practice. He’s starting to fit in and his opportunities are coming.”
Meanwhile, Taylor -- filling in for the injured Matt Jones -- flashed his potential (10 carries for 52 yards), reigniting all the preseason hype hoopla.
Florida force-fed Taylor on its most successful drive of the afternoon, as the freshman totaled 36 yards on six carries on UF’s second scoring possession. Taylor came to Florida as a polished runner, and he displayed that natural vision and cutback ability against LSU.
“I think he showed us something,” Pease said. “The kid is a physical runner. He put it north and south. We missed a couple guys. Just his speed, how he hit the holes, he made them miss.”Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton