Florida vs. Florida State, Theater of Operations: Gators get opportunistic defense against 'Noles

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida defense was the difference on Saturday, as it forced five turnovers against the Florida State offense.

The Florida Gators defeated the Florida State Seminoles last night by the score of 37 to 26. It was a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, even though the Seminoles scored a meaningless touchdown as time expired.

Along with the offense, which we'll get to on Monday and Tuesday, the Gators' defense stepped up in a big way. The Gators defense forced five turnovers, with four of those courtesy of Seminole quarterback E.J. Manuel and his poor decision making.

I never did understand just exactly what the Seminoles saw in Manuel. And as a result, I'm so glad he didn't have a Chris Rix moment.

Aside from the turnovers, the Gators defense played well. They did surrender the most points they've given up all season. Though it's debatable as to whether or not that even counts considering that the Seminoles' last touchdown was probably the most worthless touchdown scored in the rivalry since the 1997 Sugar Bowl.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit there, but it's still funny.

For the game, though, the Gators' defense allowed 300 yards of total offense (188 passing, 112 rushing) to the Seminole offense and over 50 percent conversion on third downs. Had you told me before the game that they'd give up that many yards and still get the victory, I might have said you're crazy.

But turnovers are the great equalizer: The Gators scored 10 points off turnovers Saturday afternoon and won by 11. Remember, too, that the Seminoles didn't kick an extra point after their last touchdown.

Play No. 1: Matt Elam's interception

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Elam is going to drop back into coverage (which he has done quite a bit this year compared to the last couple of years), while the rest of the Gators defense blitzes.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Here come Lerentee McCray and Josh Evans.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The resulting pressure from Evans and McCray causes Manuel to throw the ball off balance and from his back foot.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Elam is there to make the interception as the throw goes high and long because of the aforementioned pressure. Great overall job by the defense on this play.

Play No. 2: Jelani Jenkins' interception

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Like Elam on the previous play, Jenkins will drop back into coverage. The only difference between the two plays is that Manuel clearly didn't see Jenkins in coverage here. It costs the Seminoles dearly.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

It's also not like Manuel didn't have a nice pocket to throw from either.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

At the last possible second, Jenkins slides in front of the receiver to make the interception. He ends up returning the ball 14 yards to about the Seminoles' 25, but the Gators were unable to score points, as they instead tried a few trick plays that didn't fool the defense at all.

Play No. 3: McCray and Antonio Morrison sack Manuel, force fumble

Remember when John Brantley was hurt and Tomahawk Nation put a picture of an injured Brantley up on a postgame post? We've won't do that here at Alligator Army. We're just glad that Manuel is okay and was able to come back into the game.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

McCray comes off the edge on this play, while Morrison won't make an appearance until later.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The pressure up the middle by Jonathan Bostic forces Manuel to scramble. The route he picks is costly, but it really is the only available option, as the outsides are blocked by Sharrif Floyd and McCray, among others.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Meet at the quarterback.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Boom.

Morrison's hit (along with McCray wrapping up around the hips) causes Manuel to fumble the ball, and the Gators would recover. Manuel would be shaken up on the play, but would return later without missing too much time.

Play No. 4: Floyd's sack on Manuel

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Floyd just comes on a rush, while McCray, who is to his right, is going to stunt back inside and attack the middle of the offensive line.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

This is where the Gators' great coverage unit comes into play. They don't lead the nation in pass efficiency defense for nothing. They give Floyd the necessary time (which isn't much, by the way) needed to break free of his block and head towards Manuel.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Floyd gets his sack. And it was his first of the season. And it was good.

We'll take a look at the offense (both good and bad, thanks Bjoern Werner) on Monday and Tuesday, But for now, let's just celebrate a fine defensive performance. The Gators defense, and specifically Matt Elam, deserve to enjoy their much-wanted victory over the Seminoles.

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