Gators miss tackles, DBs in worst defensive showing under Grantham
The No. 5 Gators rewrote the school record books with their offensive performance Saturday, but the effort from their defense will be one to forget.
Florida had its worst showing under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, whose units had given up 500 yards just once in his first two years — against LSU last season.
Ole Miss torched Grantham’s defense in Lane Kiffin’s debut, racking up 613 yards of total offense. That’s the poorest performance by UF since 672 yards at Alabama in 2014, the most allowed in school history.
Kiffin was the offensive coordinator of that Crimson Tide team.
“Lane does a really good job offensively of creating matchups out there on the field, so you give them credit for that,” Mullen said. “We’ve just got to get cleaner and better for next week.
“I know Todd and the staff are going to do a great job. I know our player leadership on defense is probably not pleased with our total performance on the day. I think those guys need to step up and get that improved from Week 1 to Week 2.”
The Rebels finished with 443 passing yards, including 395 yards and three touchdowns from starting quarterback Matt Corral on 22 of 31 passing. Florida has now allowed a 300-yard passer in back-to-back games (323 yards for Virginia’s Bryce Perkins) after zero in Grantham’s first 25 games.
The Gators were without C.J. Henderson in the bowl game and against Ole Miss, and starting safety Shawn Davis was ejected for targeting on the opening possession. Senior defensive back Brad Stewart was also unavailable Saturday.
The secondary had no answer for slot receiver Elijah Moore, who posted a career-high 227 yards on 10 catches.
“We maybe took some things for granted defensively,” Mullen said. “Hopefully, we get some guys back next week. We have to be better back there. Got to get a little more pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, their tempo, they did a great job with tempo today.
“When you’re facing a tempo team and trying to get in game mode, I think that can be an issue. Their quarterbacks we knew would be able to keep plays alive. We’ve got to be able to get a little more pressure up front and just be a little cleaner on some stuff on the back end.”
Florida sacked Corral four times, but he still did damage on the ground with his scrambles. He carried the ball nine times for 81 yards, leading the team in rushing (excluding the sacks). Running back Jerrion Ealy added 79 yards and a score on 16 carries.
UF had opportunities to make touchdown-saving tackles at the goal line on each of the Rebels’ last four touchdowns, but missed or whiffed on the first three scores. Linebacker Amari Burney finally made a stop late in the fourth, hitting Corral at the 1-yard line and jarring the ball loose.
“We’ve got to get a lot better at, to be honest with you,” Mullen said. “But when you haven't tackled; we’ve tackled twice since the Orange Bowl. Normally you've got a lot of spring ball, you're getting physicality, you're getting tackling. We only did two in our scrimmages and they were spread out over this long period of time. We were down some guys defensively today.
“You add all that together, just haven't played a lot of football and you saw today. We haven’t hit a quarterback since the Orange Bowl last year. And you look at all the quarterback scrambles that went on today. In practice you're not allowed to touch the quarterback. We’ve only tackled twice since the Orange Bowl last year, so that's going to get better.”