GAINESVILLE -- Losers of five in a row, Florida isn’t overlooking any team, even a Football Championship Subdivision foe that is 0-9 all-time against Southeastern Conference schools.
The Gators (4-6) square off against Georgia Southern (6-4) on Saturday in The Swamp, a matchup of injury-depleted rosters and a whole lot of running.
The Eagles stroll into Gainesville with their prolific triple-option attack, while Florida appears poised to start its third-string quarterback, Skyler Mornhinweg, for the second week in a row. There will be no looking ahead to archrival Florida State.
“If you don’t come out prepared and ready to play, you can lose to anybody. We lost to Vanderbilt. We hadn’t lost to Vanderbilt in 20-something years,” junior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “Any team is capable of losing on any day. I know this team put up 352 yards on [Georgia] last year, so this is no team to push aside. This is a team to be prepared for.”
Georgia Southern’s dynamic and efficient rushing offense (353.3 yards per game) presents a unique challenge for an already teetering UF rush defense. The Eagles’ traditional dive-oriented triple option is alien to most Gator players.
“It’s a total technique change,” defensive tackle Leon Orr said. “It’s all about focus, when it comes down to it. It’s something our defense [has] gotta hone in on and be able to focus on your role. … It’ll be something of a challenge for us, but at the end of the day we ain’t got no choice but to get it done.”
Twelve players have scored at least one rushing touchdown for the Eagles this season.
According to UF’s coaching staff, the Gators have been preparing for GSU’s old-school attack since the summer.
“It’s a very different offense than what we see normally on a week-to-week basis,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “It’s things we have to prepare for, we know we don’t normally have to. They’re talented. They’ve got great speed; they’ve been running that system there for a long time. They’re good at what they do, they’ve got good answers for the things you give them. It’ll be challenging for our guys.”
Added coach Will Muschamp: “The difficulty facing a team like this [is] simulating it in practice. You just don’t ever see it. Not many teams run it. I guess the service academies and Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern. It’s not something you see every day. Recognition is key. Simplicity in what we do. Execution is going to be key.”
But execution, discipline and assignment football have not been strong suits of Florida’s defense — especially its linebackers — during its five-game skid.
“If you don’t have your assignment, they can crease you, they can score on any play,” Taylor said.