Quarterback battles. Off-field scandals. Last-second wins.
There’s been a lot to distract Florida fans from the Gators’ problems between the sidelines.
But one person who has remained fixated on the Gators defensive struggles is coach Jim McElwain, who expects more out of his unit.
“I think we’ve played better,” McElwain said Monday. “I think they’ll be the first ones to say that. And, you know, playing up to the standard.”
That standard is one that’s ingrained for Florida defenses. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Gators have consistently finished as a top-20 defense in terms of points allowed per game.
In 2016, they were sixth in the country. This year? They rank 69th.
Last season, Florida gave up six points to Vanderbilt and seven to Kentucky. This season, they gave up 24 to the Commodores and 27 to the Wildcats.
On Monday, McElwain attributed Florida’s troubles to tackling. The Gators came into their matchup against Vanderbilt on Saturday with the SEC’s highest missed-tackle percentage, according to CFB Film Room. UF's 27.2-percent figure is more than triple the amount of missed tackles that Alabama has let slip away this season.
McElwain acknowledged that the Gators have to “grab cloth” better when LSU comes to The Swamp on Saturday.
“You’re going to have to do everything with just a higher sense of urgency,” he said.
One player in particular, safety Chauncey Gardner, has caught the ire of fans for his failure to wrap up runners.
“I think he was in position this week (vs. Vanderbilt) and didn’t grab cloth and drag to the ground,” McElwain said. “Now, it’s a matter of keeping your feet moving.”
Gardner came into the game failing to finish 47.8 percent of his tackles, the worst mark in the SEC. But McElwain expects Gardner, a sophomore, to improve.
“I’m glad Chauncey is on our football team,” McElwain said. “He’s a good player.”
Another problem McElwain has taken issue with is a lack of turnovers generated.
The Gators forced five interceptions in their first two games against Michigan and Tennessee but haven’t hauled in any takeaways since.
“Creating turnovers is something we’ve got to do and we haven’t done it,” McElwain said. “We got (five) picks early, but we haven’t had that lately.”
The Gators are also one of five teams in the country that hasn’t recovered a fumble, an area UF has an opportunity to exploit against an LSU team that lost two fumbles in a loss to Troy.
“(We’ve got to) continue working on wrapping up and stripping the ball,” McElwain said.
You can follow Matt Brannon on Twitter @MattB_727, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.