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Defense keeps pressure on in shutting down Bulldogs

Florida allows just 215 yards and forces five turnovers, returning one for a touchdown.

By IAN FISHER
Published October 29, 2006


JACKSONVILLE - Gators coach Urban Meyer didn't even need to be asked how his defense played Saturday in a 21-14 victory against Georgia.

Immediately upon taking the microphone, Meyer said what many Gator fans were thinking.

"Thank God for great defense," Meyer said. "That was a great effort by our guys. To hold them to 215 yards with the kind of athletes they have, I thought our guys played hard."

Both of Georgia's touchdowns were set up by Florida turnovers.

And the Gators forced five of their own. Derrick Harvey had a big part on two. On consecutive third-quarter drives, he forced a fumble then recovered a fumble.

Georgia got the ball to start the second half. But on its first play from scrimmage, the redshirt sophomore punched the ball out of running back Kregg Lumpkin's grasp. Ray McDonald scooped up the ball and returned it 9 yards for a touchdown that put the Gators ahead 21-0.

"Harvey is a great player," McDonald said. "He's really turning into a baller. And he's young, so he can get a lot better."

On the sixth play of Georgia's next series, Jarvis Moss knocked the ball from Matthew Stafford as he was about to throw, and Harvey recovered the fumble at the Bulldogs 44. The Gators drove 22 yards but missed a field goal.

Harvey, unavailable for comment, entered leading the SEC with six sacks and added another.

But he doesn't even start.

Cornerback Ryan Smith, Harvey's roommate, said he must be the best backup defensive end in the country.

Smith praised not only Harvey, but the entire defensive line for the pressure it put on Stafford, who threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

"We forced him into making some decisions that he probably shouldn't have made," Smith said.

Linebacker Earl Everett reiterated how important turnovers are. Last season, Florida had a plus-18 margin. After Saturday, it is only plus-2.

"(The defensive) line came up big for us," Everett said. "They've been telling us to force turnovers all year long. (Harvey) has been a big part. He's pretty much a starter in my mind."