Thursday, April 26, 2018
Colleges

Defensive adjustments help Florida Gators earn victory

College Station, Texas — Florida coach Will Muschamp wasn't pleased with the performance of his defense during the first half of Saturday's 20-17 win at Texas A&M.

They were trying too hard.

"It was all correctable," Muschamp said.

After allowing redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel to complete 16 of 20 passes for 141 yards and run for 41 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, the Gators' trailed 17-10.

Muschamp had one message for his team.

"Just do your job," he said.

Muschamp said the defense was too eager to make big plays in the backfield and was over-pursuing. That left the line of scrimmage undermanned, which resulted in gaping running lanes.

At halftime, he stressed to his players to stay at home.

"We have a very aggressive front, and (the Aggies) had a good plan coming in with a quarterback that has legs," Muschamp said. "So they were going to invite us around the field, and they were going to hit run creases with him.

"Finally, our guys at halftime, I told them, 'I'm firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage, squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That's what they want you to do.' "

The result was a complete turnaround.

After giving up 269 yards on 46 plays, an average of 5.8, and 18 first downs in the first half, the Gators held the Aggies to just 65 yards on 23 plays, an average of 2.8, and three first downs (two during the final drive) in the second.

The adjustments paid off most on third down. In the first half, Texas A&M went 4-of-8. In the second: 0-for-6.

Entering the game, the Gators had no film of the Aggies, whose opener was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. As a result, they did not know what to expect from Manziel, who made his first start.

"We figured out, 'Hey this guy can run. We've got to keep our rush lanes contained,' " Florida senior linebacker Jon Bostic said. "Muschamp said they recruited him at Texas to play safety.

"That's all we really knew about him."

Manziel accumulated just 69 yards of offense in the second half. And after a final stop by the defense, Florida's offense held onto the ball for the final 3:13.

"We want to go win it in the fourth quarter," Bostic said. "Give it back to the offense; let them grind the ball out."

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