Florida defensive coordinator DJ Durkin said he sees a glimmer of promise on a Gators team that has skidded to a four-game losing streak.
The defense, he said, has had its moments. What it needs now is consistency.
“I feel at times we’ve been a great defense,” Durkin said. “But we haven’t been consistent. And so that’s the message. We have things to point to and say, ‘This is when we were doing it the right way and had the right mindset, and this is when we weren’t.’”
Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC) travels to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday at 7 p.m. While South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) ranks 25th in the country in total defense, Florida claims the fifth spot in total defense.
The Gators have allowed just 19 points per game, 16th best in the nation, but have been outscored 110-60 in their last four outings. Florida’s defense held Vanderbilt last weekend to 3.5 yards per play and 6-of-12 passing for 57 yards.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier runs “a balanced attack” in the air and on the ground with his offenses, Durkin said. He thinks one of the biggest challenges for the Gators defense against South Carolina will be containing their quarterback, Connor Shaw. Restricting the pocket and keeping him in it are keys.
“Nobody’s really been able to stop him,” Durkin said. “I think there’s ways to limit him and limit the big plays, but Connor’s a great player, a great competitor. We’ve faced him now for a couple years, and he can beat you both throwing the ball and running the ball, and he’s really good when plays break down.”
Against Vanderbilt, Florida racked up 11 penalties for 84 yards. Through nine games, Florida has 73 penalties for 581 yards. Another key in the South Carolina game is limiting penalties and not giving up yards to opposing offenses.
“We can’t be in a position to make stupid mistakes that put us behind the eight ball and give us a good chance to not win the game,” Durkin said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to help ourselves win the game. That’s where we’re at right now.”
He said he thinks the talent is present on his squad; the players just need to learn to deal with distractions in game situations and off the field.
“The guys we have are good players, and we’ve played good at times with the guys we have, but we can’t allow things to affect us, whether it’s a guy being out or we’re back on the field because it’s a sudden change situation,” he said. “None of that should affect how we play, and at times I feel like it has, and that’s the learning process we need to take from all this.
“We need to play our style the way we play defensively at all times, regardless of what the situation is.”