Dooley: Defense paves way to win

Florida defenders make gang tackle during the first half of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Monday Jan. 2, 2017. Florida leads the Iowa Hawkeyes 10-3 at the half in the Outback Bowl. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun) TAMPA — It was Picture Day for the Florida football team Monday afternoon at the Outback Bowl. Position players posed with other position players, friends with friends, coaches with their families, cheerleaders with cheerleaders.

This wasn’t the flag-waving, in-your face celebration in Baton Rouge when they won the East. This was more of a job-well-done, satisfied celebration.

Freshman linebacker David Reese grabbed senior linebacker Jarrad Davis and rubbed his head. Neither one played in the game, but Reese knew what it meant for the seniors to go out with a win.

This will be a different offseason for the mighty Gators, not that it means less work, but that it will mean better memories.

Even with three linebackers out and a fourth going down early in the second quarter, Florida’s defense refused to go over in the corner and feel sorry for itself.

“They put the preparation in and they weren’t going to be denied,” said Florida coach Jim McElwain. “They didn’t take no for an answer.”

Even when it looked like we may be watching a repeat of the Alabama game with Austin Appleby throwing first-quarter interceptions, the Gators refused to wilt in the sun. To be fair, both picks came on deflected passes.

“I was as unlucky as I was at the Hard Rock Casino earlier this week,” Appleby said.

But he settled down when the defense didn’t let those mistakes became too big a deficit. And eventually, the defense went from shutting Iowa down to ending the Hawkeyes’ hopes of getting off their bowl slide (five straight losses now).

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