Another Promising Start Goes South Quickly
Heading into Saturday the Kentucky football team was down 18 players and 10 staff members due to COVID-19 concerns and injuries. There was doubt if the game would even be played. However, it went on and it followed a familiar pattern as recent games. Over the last six years, the Kentucky football team played Florida even everywhere except the scoreboard. At least three times the Cats should have won, but in the end, it always ended up a Gators’ victory. For a half on Saturday, it followed the same script with the Cats hanging tough. However due to some breakdowns and a stagnant offense in the second half Florida cruises past Kentucky 34-10.
Special Teams Breakdown
Over the last couple of years, Kentucky had an official special teams coach in Dean Hood. He left to become the head coach at Murray State this year. Special teams play had been pretty well most of 2020 but on Saturday it was dismal. On their first possession, the Cats forced Florida into a three and out. However, when almost every UK player went into return mode Dameon Pierce took a direct snap 20 yards keeping the drive alive. Two plays later Kyle Trask hit the returning Kyle Pitts 56 yards to put the Gators on the board first.
From there the Kentucky defense played well until another huge special team blunder gave the Gators another score. Leading 10-7 late in the second quarter and deep in their own territory Max Duffy was supposed to punt the ball to the left. However, he kicked it right and the entire punt team surrounded Marco Wilson. The problem was the ball went to Kadarius Toney who went untouched 50 yards for a score.
— OnlyGators.com 🐊 Florida Gators news (@onlygators) November 28, 2020
In a half where Kentucky dominated the time of possession, they went in trailing due to special teams miscues.
Why He’s The Heisman Leader
Kentucky began the third quarter with three straight defensive penalties giving Florida 39 free yards which is probably some kind of record. From there Trask hit Pitts with his second of three touchdowns on the day putting the Gators up 21-10. For the game Trask completed a very efficient 21 of 27 passes for 256 yards and three scores. In addition he passed Danny Wuerffel’s school record of at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games.
Saying the Heisman candidate missed his favorite receiver is an understatement. Making his return from a concussion Pitts hauled in five passes for 99 yards and three touchdowns. If you read our preview of the game we said stopping Pitts was a major key and they failed to get it done. In hindsight it wasn’t the best idea for one of Kentucky’s defensive players to talk trash about Pitts. The Kyle to Kyle connection is a major reason why Florida cruises past Kentucky 34-10.
Another Stagnant Offense
Much like a week ago against Alabama the Cats did some good things on offense in the first half. However due to the special teams blunders they had little to show for it. In the second half the Cats did absolutely nothing against the much-maligned Todd Grantham defense. In six possessions Eddie Gran’s offense went punt, interception, punt, turnover on downs followed by two more interceptions. For whatever reason the Cats struggle in the second half, how bad is the disparity check out these numbers.
Kentucky's scoring margin in the first half of games so far this season: 0 (102-102). Kentucky's scoring margin in the second half/overtime of games so far this season: -70 (144-74)
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) November 28, 2020
Kentucky finished with 221 yards of total offense, the sixth time in the last seven games where they’ve failed to crack 300 yards. After the season Coach Mark Stoops is going to have to make some changes on that side of the ball. Yes the Cats were without leading rusher Christopher Rodriguez but they have plenty of talented players. Seeing pinball-like numbers all-around college football while UK struggles week after week is maddening to the Big Blue Nation.
One bright spot on Saturday was tight end Keaton Upshaw. The sophomore caught all three of his targets for 38 yards and Kentucky’s only touchdown. We say every week the Cats should target the tight ends and good things will happen and those numbers back it up.
With the win the Gators move to 7-1 on the season and still have a chance to make the college football playoff. They’ll need some teams in front of them to lose as currently Last Word has them playing Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Next week they travel to Knoxville for their annual battle against Tennessee. The Gators have won 14 of the last 15 against the Vols.
On the other side of the ball Kentucky drops to 3-6 on the year and with the loss the chance of fifth straight winning season is over. They finish up the regular season next week at Kroger Field when they host South Carolina. UK has won five of the last six versus the Gamecocks. Currently Last Word has the Wildcats playing Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.
In a game some thought shouldn’t be played Florida cruises past Kentucky 34-10. The win is the Gators’ 32nd in the last 33 games against the Wildcats. Thanks for checking out this and all the other great content here at Last Word On College Football.