Florida's defense settles down after shaky start in opener Print
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Sunday, 02 September 2007 11:34
NCAAF Headline News

 GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Florida safety Tony Joiner had a message for his defensive teammates after the opening drive against Western Kentucky: ``Settle down and grow up.''
The sixth-ranked Gators may have done a little bit of both in a weather-shortened, 49-3 victory Saturday.
The defense, coach Urban Meyer's biggest concern heading into the opener, allowed a 62-yard drive to start the game. The Gators stopped the Hilltoppers on fourth down, then gave up 142 yards over the next nine possessions - an encouraging sign for a defense that had to replace nine starters after winning the national championship.
``Guys were really anxious to get out there and play and show what they had,'' Joiner said. ``They needed to relax, and they did that after the first drive.''
A bigger test should come next week against Troy, which won the Sun Belt Conference this past season and played close games against Florida State and Georgia Tech.
``It's going to be a lot cleaner for us,'' Joiner said.
The Gators (1-0) certainly hope so.
Meyer said Sunday that though his defenders' effort was solid, their technique was ``not very good.''
Florida got little push from defensive tackles Javier Estopinan and Clint McMillan and several mistakes from cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis and free safety Kyle Jackson.
Meyer said the defense might have to use more stunts and blitzes to get added pressure. He also suggested some changes could happen.
Cornerback Markihe Anderson might be able to return after sitting out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. He would replace Pierre-Louis.
``Obviously, we're at the mercy of healing,'' Meyer said. ``We'd love to get him ready because they're going to come in here and throw that thing all over the field.''
And the coaching staff is excited about freshman safety Major Wright, who played well after replacing Jackson in the second half.
Then there's cornerback Jacques Rickerson and defensive lineman Lawrence Marsh. Both are expected back after serving one-game suspensions for violating team rules.
Marsh, a 6-foot-5, 273-pound redshirt freshman, could help out right away.
``I think Lawrence Marsh certainly has the body type,'' Meyer said. ``He's not played football here at Florida yet. He's got to learn to keep it on a 10 at all times. We're going to find that out this week because we could use Lawrence.''
The defense may have had a missed assignments, but it certainly wasn't problematic. After all, the Hilltoppers managed just a lone field goal before the half.
There were several bright spots.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes finished with 11 tackles, linebacker Dustin Doe added seven, defensive end Derrick Harvey had two sacks, and cornerback Joe Haden - one of 14 true freshmen to play in the opener - was solid.
Meyer would like to have finished the game to give his inexperienced defense more time on the field, but officials called it with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.
``Our coaches feel like we still have a lot of growing up to do,'' Meyer said. ``You wish you played that last eight minutes. Not because of the outcome of the game; I think we would have the game. It's the opportunity to teach. It's not just playing experience. It's teaching experience. ... That's priceless.''
 

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