Theater of Operations, Florida Vs. Tennessee: Reviewing The Gators' Defensive Performance

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Tight end Mychal Rivera #81 of the Tennessee Volunteers makes a reception for a touchdown against linebacker Jelani Jenkins #3 of the Florida Gators and safety Matt Elam #22 during a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

We know about the bad (penalties, penalties, penalties), so let's focus on the good.

If you look at the Florida Gators defensive performance against the Tennessee Volunteers on the surface, you might find that it wasn't all that dominating. You'd see that they gave up twenty-three points, over two hundred and eighty yards in the air, and three passing touchdowns. 

Including this season, the winner of the Florida - Tennessee game has been able to run the ball. The last 20 out of 22 times, the team with the most rushing yards has won the football game. Running the ball is still key. It doesn't matter how good of a passing attack you have, you'll still lose football games if you can't run the ball.

The Vols had minus-nine yards rushing. Our friends over at Rocky Top Talk covered that stat almost perfectly. The only difference I have is that I think the game turned out just how it was supposed to. The game was over after the Gators took a 30-7 lead. What happened after that was inconsequential. I'm not going to say it was garbage time, but it was close.

Play No. 1: Josh Evans' interception at the beginning of the 3rd quarter:

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

This play seemed to be a combination of things. Mostly Tyler Bray's apparent inability to account for a defensive back that is shadowing him fifteen yards down the field.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Shaw has broken off of the man-to-man coverage and is now playing zone. He is also mirroring whatever Bray does. Notice the pressure that Jaye Howard gets. He is the one who flushes Bray out of the pocket.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

At this point, Bray has decided to throw the ball. Still being pressured from the side, so he knows he has to hurry.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Either Bray didn't see Josh Evans, or he didn't put enough air on the throw.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Josh Evans completes the leaping interception with ease.

Play No. 2: Matt Elam breaks up the Tennessee two-point conversion attempt:

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Matt Elam is defending the inside receiver. He does it very well, but he gets some help.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

That help comes via the pass rush. Two players (I think one is Ian Silberman #77 but I'm not sure exactly) break through unblocked until one is taken out at the last possible second, resulting in a throw that Bray needed a little more time to make.

  Elampd3_medium

(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

For a tenth of a second, when this screen-cap was taken, it would appear that Elam is beaten on the play. But he has his hands (see how this is done Roberson!) in perfect position over the receivers hands.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Which results in a beautiful knockdown of the pass by Elam.

Play No. 3: Jelani Jenkins' sack:

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Jenkins is going to come through untouched. The hole he gets to run through is arguably bigger than the one Rainey got to run through on his eighty-three yard touchdown scamper.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Here is where Bray makes matters worse for himself. Jenkins in full sprint, doesn't slow down a bit when Bray pump-fakes to try and open up a receiver.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

And it costs him and Tennessee dearly.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Great play by Jelani Jenkins.

Play No. 4: Matt Elam's interception:

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Matt Elam isn't in the picture yet as he is playing deep to prevent a long pass.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Matt Elam makes his appearance on the screen at this moment. As you can see, it is a poorly thrown ball and Elam is in perfect position. Granted, Tyler Bray has to make a throw, but with just under two minutes left in the game, the Vols still have a timeout left, he didn't have to make a throw into double coverage. But I'm glad he did.

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(Photo courtesy of GatorVision)

Victory. Seven in a row over the Vols!

Now I know that the defense wasn't perfect. We all know they committed way too many penalties. Especially Marcus Roberson and Josh Evans. Roberson for defensive holding and pass-interference, and Evans for late hits. But when you think about it, the Gators defense probably played about as well as we could have hoped for. Tennessee is a heck of a passing team and the young secondary of the Gators played well. 

Just remember, it could have always been worse.

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