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Saturday, September 8, 2012
Defense heeds Muschamp's words

By Michael DiRocco
GatorNation

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Florida coach Will Muschamp is trying to get his defensive players to understand that it's possible to be too aggressive.

After the Gators' 20-17 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field, they should finally understand.

Florida was too aggressive in the first half and as a result couldn't stop quarterback Johnny Manziel and the rest of the Aggies offense from going up and down the field. But after a halftime scolding, the Gators finally settled down -- and then shut down the Aggies to ruin their Southeastern Conference debut. It was a pretty simple solution, too.

Matt Elam
Safety Matt Elam (22) and another Gator defener tackle Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope on Saturday.
"We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage," Muschamp said. "That was the difference. There's no magic potion."

Maybe not, but Muschamp did cast a spell on the 24th-ranked Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) with a pretty good threat. The defensive linemen and linebackers were running up the field and chasing Manziel instead of staying in their gaps and playing their assignments. That allowed Manziel to find some running lanes up the middle and also get outside. He hurt the Gators with 182 yards of total offense iin the first half, and he led the Aggies (0-1, 0-1) to 269 yards of total offense and a 17-10 lead.

"We had a very aggressive front, and they had a plan coming in with a quarterback that [can run]," Muschamp said. "They were going to invite us to run up the field and hit run creases with him. At halftime I told them, 'I'm firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage and squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That's what they want you to do, so sit on the line of scrimmage and get your hands on people. If you'll do that we won't have run lanes anymore.'

"We've just got to be a little more disciplined with what we do. I love the aggressiveness, but sometimes it does hurt us."

UF's players listened. They stayed home and didn't chase. They did their jobs. And they held the Aggies to just 65 yards of offense in the second half. Manziel ran for 19 and threw for 32. Texas A&M, after not punting in the first half, punted six times and went 0-for-6 on third down.

Our guys need to start listening a little bit more sometimes. It's not from a lack of effort or a lack of want-to. Guys want to do so much. They want to do too much. Just do your job.

-- Florida coach Will Muschamp on his defense

Part of the reason for the first-half struggles, linebacker Jon Bostic said, is that the Gators didn't have any current tape on the Aggies. They watched 2011 Houston film to get an idea of coach Kevin Sumlin's offense, and they watched 2011 Texas A&M film to get an idea of the personnel. But they weren't able to put that together until Saturday. Plus, nobody had any film on Manziel, who last played in high school two years ago.

It took 30 minutes to get that sorted out. And about two more for Muschamp to deliver his message.

"I wouldn't say it didn't get through to us [in the first half]," Bostic said. "We knew we were going to have to make some adjustments. We really didn't have any film on them to see exactly what their personnel was. At Houston, they didn't really use the tight end, but they've got two good tight ends in their offense [now] so we had to find out where they were going to line up. Once we made those adjustments, what plays they like out of certain formations, then we were fine.

"Second half once we settled down we got all that stopped."

Not being overly aggressive and undisciplined is something the Gators need to master as they head into the rest of the SEC schedule -- beginning with Saturday's game at Tennessee, which has one of the league's top passing attacks behind quarterback Tyler Bray. But what happened in front of 87,114 at Kyle Field should be enough proof that being too aggressive is almost more dangerous than being not aggressive enough.

It could be a breakthrough for a defense that still hasn't shown the ability to force turnovers and one that too often has hurt itself with undisciplined penalties. At least that's what Muschamp is hoping.

"Our guys need to start listening a little bit more sometimes," he said. "It's not from a lack of effort or a lack of want-to. Guys want to do so much. They want to do too much. Just do your job. Just take care of your responsibility. We don't need you making the fantastic play. Just do your job.

"You don't ever want to take anybody's aggressiveness away. You never want to do that so I've got to be careful about how we manage this."