November 28, 2005

Strong snags honor for second time

Urban Meyer can count on his defense once again.

Florida's first-year head coach and offensive guru spent most of the season doing just that. The Gators gave up 15.3 points per game in their first eight games as they put together a 6-2 record. Then, Vanderbilt and South Carolina scored a combined 72 points on that same defense.

What followed was their best performance of the year. The Gators forced four turnovers - including three by the defense - and didn't allow a point for the first three quarters in their 34-7 route of visiting rival Florida State Saturday. The impressive display made Gators co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong the's Coordinator of the Week.

The honor is also a reminder of just how well the Gators defense was playing in the early stages of the season. Strong was selected the Coordinator of the Week in week 3 after the Gators beat Tennessee 16-7. He is the only coach to earn the honor twice.

Creating relentless pressure on FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford earned Strong the second award. Weatherford was sacked five times and hurried into several throws as the Gators continually attacked his young offensive line, which has lost three starters. He finished 24-of-42 for 285 yards with two costly interceptions. A number of those completions and a big chunk of that yardage came in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided.

"We couldn't protect the passer," FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. "We had people open but couldn't protect the passer. We would cock our arm … and they just ran over and around us."

The Gators shut down more than FSU's passing game. The Seminoles were held to 63 yards in the first half and 49 rushing yards for the entire game. Their first 11 drives resulted in five punts, two fumbles, two picks, a blocked field goal and a turnover on downs.

One of the fumbles and one of the interceptions led directly to points for the Gators, who have forced an SEC-high 30 turnovers.

The Gators put together the dominating effort despite not having starting defensive tackle Ray McDonald, who did not play due to a knee injury.

Other coordinators considered for the award include:

• Nebraska's defense looked like the dominating unit it had been earlier in the season in the Huskers' 30-3 win at rival Colorado. Using a game plan devised by defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, the Huskers allowed 212 total yards, including 104 over the final three quarters. The Huskers also got plenty of pressure on quarterback Joel Klatt and came away with five sacks.

• Connecticut pulled off what might have been the biggest upset of the week by edging visiting South Florida 15-10. The credit goes largely to the defense. Under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, the Huskies forced five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles), had a safety and slowed down the key to the Bulls' success, their running game. The Bulls were held to 83 yards on the ground.

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