McCray alright with defense carrying the load

McCray alright with defense carrying the load

The 8-1 record is a sign of the progress made in Gainesville this season, but it wouldn't be possible without the defense. The Florida offense has sputtered in recent weeks but hasn't been able to match the production of the defense. Even if the talent and execution on offense were better, matching the defense would be tough to do. The Gators are top five nationally in total defense this year.

"Every team I've played on ever since little league, our coach always told me defense wins championships, offense just entertains," Lerentee McCray said. "That's just kind of been a compliment that I've been living with. That's what I've been playing with my whole career, so it's always going to be like that."

The Gators are the 17th in the country in pass defense and 10th in rushing defense. They're fifth in the country, allowing 286.9 yards per game and fourth nationally by giving up 12.1 points per game.

On the other side of the ball, it's not pretty.

Florida is 35th in the country with 192.7 yards per game on the ground. It's 114th in the country with 140.1 passing yards per game, just ahead of option teams like Georgia Tech, Navy and Army.

Despite the opposite production by the offense and defense, McCray says there are no hostile attitudes from the defense. After nine games this season, it's just the way the Gators expect this team to be for the rest of the year.

"Just as a unit, we've always been playing together no matter what happens," McCray said. "We talked about it in the offseason – we're going to stick together no matter what. We're stronger when we're together than we are apart. That's kind of been what we've been doing." ?

Last year, that might not have been the case.

Players and coaches have talked throughout the year about the improved chemistry. A big part of that came in the offseason by the strength and conditioning program that focused on team chemistry. It might not have been necessary. The six-loss season the players went through in 2011 was enough motivation for the team to come together.

They went through enough last season to make them focusing on getting closer to make sure that didn't happened again.

"(It) is a real big difference since last year," McCray said. "I mean, you can tell from 8-1 and we finished last year with seven wins after the bowl game. It's definitely a big difference like coming into the locker room after the games. Last year, everybody just had their heads down.

"Being down at halftime and not being able to overcome adversity, it's definitely a big difference within the team. That's just an accomplishment to our maturity and our development over the offseason."

There's still an outside side that the team can earn a berth in the national championship game. Will Muschamp spoke to the team about it on Monday, calling the end of the regular season a "three-game playoff."

"We've got to win these three games to get where we want to go and hopefully have a BCS national championship shot," McCray said. "So we got to win these three games. Win these last three games and finish undefeated in the swamp." ?

McCray expects to play on Saturday after being held out against Missouri with an ankle injury. He was back at practice on Monday and expects to be back on the field Saturday.

The next two weeks will be the final ones of McCray's career in The Swamp. With the chance at a BCS game still in the picture, he's making sure the team doesn't have a repeat of the game against Furman from last year. The Gators want to put their full attention on Louisiana and Jacksonville State the next two weeks.

"Going into the game, I know that we've definitely got to be ready for our opponent," McCray said. "We definitely can't overlook them. Looking at the Furman game last year, it kind of reminds me a little bit of them, but I don't think we're looking past them. I think we're ready to come out and play and defend the Swamp."

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