OXFORD, Miss. - UF's inconsistency on defense was glaring Saturday against Mississippi, and Urban Meyer has become concerned.
The coach said the ineffiency starts with the pass rush, and correcting the issue has become an urgent priority.
BThat?s going to cost us a game,C Meyer said. BI never see their quarterback get hit, and that?s a problem.C
At times, the Gators defense dominated the Rebels the way they expected to. But with UF's pass rush disappearing for much of the game, Mississippi was able to take advantage of the Gators' inexperienced defensive backfield.
BWe have a young secondary that got exposed today,C Meyer said.
Mississippi torched UF for 302 yards through the air, including two touchdowns.
The third quarter was particularly troubling for the Gators.
Sophomore cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis got beat on a 51-yard reception by Mississippi receiver Michael Hicks that brought the Rebels to the five-yard line, setting up a field goal.
On the Rebels? next possession, quarterback Seth Adams connected with receiver Shay Hodge on three straight plays totaling 48 yards. On the third reception, free safety Kyle Jackson made an ill-advised attempt to try to jump the route intercept the pass. Jackson?s lunge didn?t even come close, and Hodge walked into the end zone.
One possession later, receiver Mike Wallace got behind the secondary and Adams found him for a 77-yard touchdown that brought the Rebels to within three points of the Gators at 27-24.
BIt was pretty good coverage,C said UF cornerback Joe Haden, who was defending Wallace on the play. BIt was just, when the ball went in the air, he accelerated.C
BHe?s one of the fastest kids I?ve ever seen.C
With youth, inexperience and injury plaguing the UF secondary, Meyer said he doesn?t have the depth to make lineup changes when players aren?t performing well.
BThere are no choices right now,C Meyer said. BYou?ve got what you got.C
Jackson, a senior, was benched in the first half last week against Tennessee and his struggles have forced Meyer to consider pulling his starting job in favor of true freshman Major Wright.
Strong safety Tony Joiner, Jackson?s best friend, was visibly upset when asked about Jackson?s confidence following the game.
BI think his confidence is still the same,C Joiner said. BThere?s not really anything I see for his confidence to be lower. I?m going to talk to him again on the bus, and that?s about it.C
But while the Gators were burned by the Rebels? passing attack, they contained All-Southeastern Conference running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the Ole Miss run game.
They allowed 80 yards and no touchdowns on the ground, holding Green-Ellis to just 42 yards.
BOur linebackers and our D-lineman are playing phenomenal (against the run) right now,C Joiner said. BWhen everything is put together, we are going to have a great defense.C