Oct 10, 2020; College Station, Texas, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Brad Stewart Jr. (2) and linebacker Jeremiah Moon (7) strip the ball from Texas A&M Aggies running back Ainias Smith (0) during the fourth quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

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No. 10 Florida, LSU seek solutions to defensive woes

Florida is not playing well on defense.

Neither is LSU.

The dueling defensive deficiencies could spark a shootout when the No. 10 Gators (2-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) play host to the Tigers (1-2, 1-2) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

Both teams are coming off last-second losses.

Florida fell to 41-38 to Texas A&M on a last-second field goal while LSU came up short, 45-41, at Missouri when it failed on four consecutive plays from the opponent’s 1-yard line.

When Florida coach Dan Mullen turned his attention to LSU and LSU coach Ed Orgeron turned his attention to Florida, both coaches zeroed in on their defense.

“I probably spent more time than normal with the defense,” Mullen said.

The Gators are allowing an average of 495.0 yards per game, which ranks 72nd among the 76 FBS teams that have played this season. LSU is 71st at 494.7 yards per game.

Mullen is looking for more physicality up front, prompting his staff to evaluate personnel usage.

“We went through each guy,” Mullen said. “We went through, ‘Are we asking guys to do things they can do well? Where are we being mismatched? Where is, right at this moment, where is their strength? Where is their weakness? And are we highlighting their strengths and protecting their weaknesses?'”

Mullen said the Gators have been playing “short-handed defensively,” but he hopes some players will return this week.

“We’ve got a great coaching staff, and I know our scheme is sound,” Mullen said. “But now, as guys are performing here on a live basis within a game, there’s a lot of new faces out there for us as well. Are we putting them in a position to make plays? What we’ve got to do is make sure we’re moving the guys into the right spots to be able to make plays.”

Orgeron and his staff have done a similar evaluation. The Tigers allowed an SEC-record 623 passing yards in a season-opening loss to Mississippi State.

In the loss at Missouri last week, LSU surrendered 406 passing yards and four touchdown passes.

“I told the players to put it on me,” Orgeron said. “It starts with the coaches. I told the coaching staff that we’ve got to coach them better, got to get better. I’m not going to put it on the players. We’ve got to execute better, but we’ve got to practice better.

“There are some things going on in that film, some busts, guys running wide open.”

Orgeron vowed to simplify the defense in hopes that the players can master some basics before returning to an expanded playbook.

“I don’t care if we have to play one defense and one coverage. Play it, play it right, do whatever we need to do, put our athletes in a good position and let them make plays,” Orgeron said. “I’m going to make sure that any defense that’s called that we run it right all week and our guys understand it. If we don’t understand it, we’re not running it.”

Orgeron said missed assignments were a major problem against Missouri.

“I do believe there was some miscommunication going on,” he said. “Guys were out of position. Guys didn’t play stuff right. We’ve got to make sure our guys know everything that we’re going to do. If not, we’re not going to run it.

“Not letting people run by us and score touchdowns uncontested — that would be a great start. I don’t want to single anybody out on defense. When you give up 45 points, nobody is playing well.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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