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Lack of turnovers plaguing Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s defense still ranks No. 7 nationally (288.6 yards per game), but the unit’s lofty rankings have camouflaged its struggles during the team’s five-game losing streak -- especially in a statistical category it dominated a season ago.

The Gators are no longer forcing turnovers.

In 2012, Florida was a ball-hawking, playmaking defense that recorded 30 takeaways, and as a team finished with a plus-15 turnover margin -- good for No. 7 in the country.

This season, the offense has struggled to protect the football, while its defense -- supposedly the rock of the team -- has done little to counter the problem.

“We have missed some opportunities,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We've had some opportunities at interceptions that were dropped, and we've had some balls on the ground that we haven't gotten. We haven't had as many strip opportunities as we would like. That's one thing we have looked at as a staff. … We've got to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Florida has forced 15 turnovers this season, but 10 came in a three-game stretch against lowly conference competition with a combined league record of 1-17.

During its five-game losing streak, Florida has just four takeaways, while turning the ball over eight times.

“We’ve had opportunities to make them and haven’t really made them at times. Usually, when someone makes one of those plays, a tough play and gets one, then you kind off get a couple more. It spirals that way,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “We’ve had those chances in games, and just most recently haven’t made them. It’s something we emphasize, work on and talk about in meetings. We know how critical it is to our success. We’ve got to protect the ball and get the ball out on defense. Obviously, we’re not winning in that area right now, and it’s affecting the outcome of the games.”

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