- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida was clinging to a 14-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, and Missouri was driving for the potential game-tying touchdown.
Yet Gators defensive tackle Omar Hunter couldn't have been happier.
Hunter and the rest of UF's defense want to be in that situation. They want the pressure. They want the outcome to be dependent on somebody on defense making a play.
"We love it," Hunter said. "We love it when our back's against the wall. We wouldn't have it any other way."
That's what happened on Saturday. Josh Evans intercepted James Franklin's fourth-down pass with five seconds remaining to seal the Gators' victory in front of a less-than-packed Florida Field. That was UF's fourth interception and it ensured the Gators would not only beat the Tigers but also remain alive in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division race -- and keep their slim national championship hopes alive, as well.
What happened isn't anything new, though. Florida's defense has covered all season for an offense that struggles to move the ball and makes few plays in the passing game because of an inconsistent offensive line and a lack of playmakers at receiver. The offense isn't going to get any better, so the defense will have to continue to carry the team, especially if they are going to beat Florida State, somehow sneak into the SEC Championship Game and/or reach a BCS bowl.
"I'm a realist and I believe in being honest and calling it the way it is," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "When it stinks, it stinks, and I think if we go back to last year and you pull your tape recorders out I probably said it a couple of times.
"After our first game of the year I kind of made a statement that it's kind of who we are right now. And as we move forward we're going to continue to improve offensively and we're going to become explosive and more of what we want to be, but we're doing what we have to do to win football games."
Against Missouri (4-5, 1-5), Florida's defense did what it usually does: clamp down in the second half. The Gators held the Tigers to 35 yards rushing, intercepted Franklin three times, blocked a field goal and didn't give up a point despite Missouri ending six consecutive drives in Florida territory.
14hAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
2dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf