Florida vs. Miami: Gator Defense's 4 Keys to Slowing Down the Hot Canes' Offense

Tyler PiccottiContributor IIISeptember 6, 2013

Florida vs. Miami: Gator Defense's 4 Keys to Slowing Down the Hot Canes' Offense

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    Yes, that's Robert Marve (No. 9) in the photo above. That just shows how long it has been since Florida and Miami have gotten together to renew their in-state rivalry.

    Hopefully, their long-anticapted clash on Saturday afternoon will be worth the wait.

    However, the Gators will have their hands full against an offense with talent at every position. This marks the first real test for a unit that held Toledo to only 205 total yards one week ago.

    Whether or not they can keep Miami out of the end zone will go a long way towards determining the outcome of the game and the season outlook in Gainesville.

Contain Duke Johnson

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    As Florida Atlantic found out one week ago, Duke Johnson is a pretty good running back.

    In fact, he is the best running back the Gators will see this season other than Todd Gurley.

    If the Gators have any hopes of beating Miami, they need to contain the sophomore running back as much as possible.

    They were able to shut down David Fluellen in the season opener, but that was against the inferior offensive line of an outmatched opponent. Johnson is a better back on a much more talented team, and the fact that Saturday is a rivalry game adds another element to the mix.

    Does Florida need to keep him to only 20 yards or some other extremely low number? No, but they can't afford to let him get in a rhythm and open up play action for Stephen Morris. That could spell eventual doom.

    Johnson is the heart of this offense, and the Gators need to take that into account.

Pressure Stephen Morris

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    Morris is one of the hardest players to figure out in college football and one of the most overrated.

    Despite having the size, athleticism and arm strength of an upper-tier quarterback, Morris' career completion percentage is extremely low (57.8) and his ratio of touchdowns to interceptions would create some form of controversy at other schools.

    Still, he has the talent to put together a stellar game on any given day, and the Gators need to account for it.

    They need to pressure Morris in the pocket. The senior quarterback has shown that he can falter when under duress and make bad throws.

    If he makes any mistake, Florida corners will make him pay for it.

    If players like Dominique Easley and Dante Fowler can push through the line and into the backfield, the Gators will have a huge advantage.

     

Keep Up with Speedsters on the Outside

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    As if contending with Duke Johnson wasn't enough, the Gators also need to hold their own against an array of speedy wide receivers.

    But Florida's secondary is also very fast, and that will make for an interesting matchup. 

    Herb Waters, Phillip Dorsett and Stacy Coley are burners that can simply break away and get open. If Morris can find them or any other receiver for a big play or two, the Hurricanes can get on a roll and never look back.

    That's why it is important for Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and even Vernon Hargreaves III to keep the action in front of them. If they are getting beat on Saturday, the Gators are going to fall behind on the scoreboard.

Shake off the Rust

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    Speaking of Purifoy, he is returning from a one-game suspension this weekend. Antonio Morrison and Darious Cummings are as well.

    The return of Cummings isn't necessarily monumental, but getting Purifoy and Morrison back will be a huge boost for the Gators. The only problem is that they may not be fully on their A-game in their first competitive live action.

    How well they can adjust and get into the flow of the game will either hurt or greatly help Florida's defense.

    Both play with a high motor and should be fine physically. However, they should need a few plays to acclimate mentally. Purifoy is the bigger concern because he has to keep up with Miami's receivers. Plus, he may also be used offensively. He could tire from the added workload.

    In any case, the Gators need them at their best, or at least close to it, for this game.