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Sunday, October 11, 2009
Defense steals the show for Gators

By Chris Low
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


BATON ROUGE, La. -- Tim Tebow might have been the story, but he wasn’t the difference.
 
 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
 Quarterback Tim Tebow got the most attention but coach Urban Meyer said Florida's dominant defense was the key to victory.

The difference was a Florida defense that was good enough to win a national championship a year ago and was in national championship form Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

The No. 1-ranked Gators buried No. 4-ranked LSU 13-3 with the kind of suffocating defensive performance their defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong, has been pushing for ever since last season ended.

“What we have to do is become a dominant defense,” Strong said during the spring. “We’ve made a bunch of big plays when we’ve needed to, but I want to see us become dominant.”

Strong’s boss, Florida coach Urban Meyer, would call what he witnessed Saturday night dominant.

“Defensively, it was one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen at containing athletes,” said Meyer, whose Gators have still only given up two touchdowns in five games.

Of course, at halftime Saturday, you would have thought they’d given up two touchdowns in the second quarter with the way Strong was unloading on his guys.

“He had some words for us, but I can’t repeat what he said,” Florida sophomore safety Will Hill said.

Strong was peeved that his defense allowed LSU to drive 77 yards for a field goal in the second quarter and tie the game at 3-3.

From there, the Tigers managed just 58 yards.

“We weren’t going to do anything to put our defense in a bad situation,” said Tebow, who admitted he picked his spots on when to lower his head after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. “This wasn’t a game where we were going to spread it out. We were going to try and be more physical, control the ball, take care of the ball ... and trust in our defense.”

With a defense like Florida's, why not trust it?

The Tigers probably thought there were 12 men on the field most of the night. They managed just 162 total yards against the Gators and were 1-of-9 on third down.

Quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked five times and pressured relentlessly.

“We have that mentality of the Baltimore Ravens in that 2000 season,” Florida senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “If we get three points, we feel like we should win the game. All the offense has to do is get three points, and we’re going to win.”

The Tigers’ only scoring drive was aided by a couple of personal foul penalties and the only time an LSU receiver got loose all night against a Florida secondary that has few, if any, peers nationally. Brandon LaFell hauled in a 26-yard pass.

“If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think they would have scored at all,” Stamper said.

In fact, that was the plan. And not that Hill was unconcerned about his teammate, but he didn’t spend much time during the week wondering about Tebow’s status.

“We knew he was going to suit up, but we didn’t know if he was going to play or not,” Hill said. “We didn’t really care, because we had to play defense.

"The defense knew what we had to do to come out and win this game.”

Was it good enough to be classified as dominant?

“That was a first step toward it,” Hill said.