- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter
- 0 Shares
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When talking about last season's 24-20 loss to Georgia, Florida coach Will Muschamp said it felt like the Gators let the game slip away a little bit.
That's one way to describe blowing a 17-3 lead by giving up a pair of fourth-down touchdown passes.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray threw one in the second quarter and another in the third, and that momentum carried the Bulldogs to just their fourth victory in the last 22 meetings in the annual series in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I haven't really looked too much back at that game," Florida linebacker Jon Bostic said as the second-ranked Gators (7-0, 6-1) prepare for Saturday's rematch with No. 10 Georgia (6-1, 4-1).
"We've been trying to look at film from this year. But you know, those two plays we've got to have. We've got to get off the field on third down. If they decide to go for it on fourth, we've got to make sure we get off the field, too. We've got to get that to carry over to this year and this game."
Games are never won or lost on only one play, even if that play comes at the end of the game. There are plenty of opportunities to make plays earlier in the game that will affect the outcome. But it's hard to imagine any plays impacting a game more than scoring a pair of touchdowns on fourth down when trailing by double digits -- especially for the team that gave up those TD passes.
"You have to give them some credit for the plays they made," Muschamp said. "We didn't [make plays]."
The Gators have done that in pass defense this season. UF has given up only three touchdown passes and has intercepted eight passes -- one more than the Gators had in 2011. Florida is giving up just 184.7 yards per game passing and ranks third nationally in pass efficiency defense behind only Alabama and LSU.
Though it's the same players in the secondary -- notably cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins and safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans -- the Gators have done a better job in man coverage and have not given up many big plays. The three touchdown passes the Gators have allowed are from 10, 6 and 2 yards.
"The secondary's improved," Bostic said. "Like every other position group, it's their second year in the defense, so they're more comfortable. They have a lot of checks, they have a lot of reads that they have to make before the play. Their job is just as hard as the linebackers and the D-line.
"We've got a complicated defense. With them being able to be in this defense again for another year, it really helps them out."
In six of seven games this season, Florida's defense has held opposing quarterbacks below their season averages in passing yards. Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers, who is averaging 206.8 yards per game, threw for 237 against the Gators two weeks ago. Against Florida, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel threw for 173 yards -- then went on to average 279.4 per game.
Murray, averaging 273.4 yards per game, has thrown for 16 touchdowns and at least two TDs in six of seven games this season.
"We've got our work cut out for us again," Muschamp said.
Especially on fourth down.
After giving up two fourth down touchdown passes in last season's loss to Georgia, the Florida secondary, ranked No. 3 in the nation, is looking for redemption against the Bulldogs.