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Turnovers were only thing to elude Florida Gators defense

GAINESVILLE — By nearly every measurement, Florida's defense dominated Saturday.

The Gators held the Seminoles to seven first downs, 95 yards total offense and a 2-for-15 third-down conversion rate. FSU punted nine times. The EJ Manuel-led offense averaged 1.6 yards per play.

Still, Florida coach Will Muschamp was not satisfied with his defense in the 21-7 loss.

"(FSU) got four turnovers, and we got one," he said. "It wasn't good enough."

The turnover battle was, in fact, the only place Florida's defense did not come through. Likewise, those turnovers accounted for all of Florida State's points. The Seminoles' only two scoring drives covered 20 yards and 4 yards.

Freshman running back Devonta Freeman scored on both drives, each coming after Florida quarterback John Brantley threw an interception.

The Seminoles entered the game averaging 401.3 yards, including 126.1 yards on the ground. Florida, however, held FSU to 30 rushing yards — 0.7 yards per carry. The Gators sacked Manuel four times.

Saturday's effort was a stark turnaround for UF, which was torched for 446 yards and 32 points by Division I-AA Furman last week. Overall, the defense has been inconsistent this season, though it ranked 17th in I-A in total defense (318.8 yards per game) before this week.

"I felt like we played really well on defense," junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "I feel like that's one of the best games we've put together this year. … We just go out there and do our thing. We don't worry about what the offense does, what special teams does. When defense is on the field, that's all we think about."

But on a night when Florida once again had to turn to freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Gators asked for more from their defense.

Florida only came close to making potential game-changing turnovers. On FSU's first scoring drive, safety De'Ante Saunders jarred the ball away from Manuel at the goal line, but the quarterback recovered. The Seminoles scored on the next play.

In the third quarter, on a third and 10 from the UF 39, safety Matt Elam jumped in front of FSU receiver Rodney Smith, only to drop an interception. Florida's only touchdown came in the fourth quarter, one play after defensive tackle Jaye Howard recovered a fumble.

"(FSU) won the turnover battle, and when you win the turnover battle, you have a chance to win," UF linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. "We got to get the ball off people a little bit better."

Turnovers were only thing to elude Florida Gators defense 11/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, November 27, 2011 12:19am]
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