Florida's defense answers the challenge

January, 9, 2009
1/09/09
3:47
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

MIAMI -- One of Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong's stated goals every game is to hold the opponent under 16 points.

With the way Oklahoma had been lighting up scoreboards, nobody would have blamed him if he had modified that goal.

 
  AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
  Major Wright and the Florida defense held Oklahoma to a season-low 14 points.

Maybe 16 points per half?

"They moved the ball on us, but we only let them in our end zone twice," said Florida safety Ahmad Black, who had a key interception with the Sooners driving in the fourth quarter. "Against these guys, with what they've done to people this year, we'll take that every time."

While Black's leaping interception at the Florida 24-yard line with 9:59 left might have been one of the final blows for the Sooners on Thursday, the Gators made sure they lived to see the second half by making one clutch defensive stop after another in the first half.

Oklahoma could have easily been up by two touchdowns at halftime, but the Gators would have none of it.

A quick recap:

Defensive tackle Torrey Davis slammed Oklahoma running back Chris Brown to the turf for a 2-yard loss when the Sooners decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter.

Linebacker Brandon Hicks sacked Sam Bradford for a 14-yard loss in the first quarter after the Sooners had driven to the Gators' 38 and had a first-and-10.

And to end the first half, cornerback Joe Haden broke up a Bradford pass at the goal line that was tipped three times, finally landing in Major Wright's hands.

"We're always on each other; who's going to make a play?" Wright said. "If you don't make plays on this defense, then you're not going to be playing."

The Florida defense also came up clutch in the third quarter when linebacker Ryan Stamper flew in to smother Brown for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-1 play at the Gators' 27. The Sooners had to try a field goal that was blocked on the next play by linebacker Dustin Doe.

"We challenged our guys, and they answered that challenge," Strong said. "The thing I said about this defense was that they didn't know how good they were. All year long, we played consistently."

Consistent? How about dominant?

The Gators closed the season with a 10-game winning streak. In those 10 games, they never allowed more than 21 points and held opponents to 14 points or less six times.

"We ain't got any punks on this team," said Davis, who was suspended for part of the season and only had five tackles entering the game. "We've got a bunch of men. When times are the toughest, that's when we play our best."

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