Kentucky Wildcats 7 vs. Florida Gators 24:  Postmortem

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky was competitive, but the Gators were a much better team.

Sorry the postmortem is so late, but due to travel, I just got finished watching the game last night so that I may offer some kind of informed commentary. I haven't had much of a chance to read up on what others thought of the game yet, but I did get a chance to watch Mark Stoops' post game comments this morning.

First of all, congratulations to Florida on a very well-played game. They had very few penalties, played conservative football to allow their new starting quarterback an opportunity to succeed without getting into confidence-damaging situations, and the Gator lines were very impressive in both their talent and execution. They took Kentucky seriously, and played exactly the kind of football that minimized the chance of upset while maximizing their advantage at key positions.

For what it's worth, here are my observations:

The Positive

  • It was a competitive game. One of the criteria that I established for whether or not I thought this team was improving was whether or not the games were competitive. I thought that despite the anemic offensive numbers, this game was more competitive than the Western Kentucky game by a significant margin, especially considering the talent of the Florida Gators when compared to Western.

  • I was pleased with the effort overall. I saw no head-hanging, I saw some good enthusiasm on the touchdown play, and the offense was good enough to get the team some opportunities.

  • The defense had some good moments despite the outcome. In the second half, I thought the defensive line played better. Nice to see adjustments work somewhat, and holding Florida to only a field goal in the second half has to be seen as a positive.

  • The special teams scored the only touchdown on a fake, and it was a thing of beauty. Joe Mansour is surprisingly athletic, and we could well see this play again later. Except for the kick out of bounds, I thought the special teams once again played well.

  • There were fewer dropped balls. I suppose that counts as a positive.

  • The playcalling was imaginative and took risks, and against a big favorite, that is usually sound strategy. It may have even worked if Kentucky had simply executed more sharply.

  • Blake McClain continues to impress as a freshman.

  • Kentucky ran the ball very well around the edges. Unfortunately, there were just too few of those plays.

  • Only one turnover is an improvement, but the play was poorly conceived and the man was double-covered. Yes, it was a great athletic play for the pick by Florida, but you just can't throw the ball in there like that, we don't have the size at receiver yet.

  • Getting our first pick of the year was good. Not turning it into points was not.

  • Thanks to Florida for the touchdown-saving tackle on their own player.

The Negative

  • Execution errors continue to plague the offense. Dropped passes, the failed quarterback throwback that would likely have succeeded if Daryl Collins had actually, you know, thrown the ball like he was supposed to, blocking the defensive end, etc.

  • Pass blocking was really poor. Maxwell Smith was always under duress, and two or three times, Darian Miller allowed the defensive end to just run back and sack Smith unblocked. That's just unacceptable. There was some chatter about the center calling the wrong blocking scheme, and maybe that is so, because every time it happened, Miller looked confused. You have to block the guy in front of you, though.

  • We have got to hang on to passes when they hit us in the hands.

  • The Gators just physically dominated both Kentucky's lines. I'm not surprised by that, and the staff is working hard to upgrade the lines. Unfortunately, they are just not good enough yet.

  • The Wildcats just could not get off the field on third down. Florida, even in medium and long third down situations just managed to dominate Kentucky. In fact, I think I can say that the Gators completely dominated UK in third down situations on both sides of the ball. You can't win that way.

  • UK did not get enough pressure on the quarterback.

  • Pass coverage still leaves a lot to be desired.

  • When UK got near the red zone, it seemed a negative play always followed. That's just a really bad tendency, and I think the play calling in those situations needs to be a bit more conservative. A field goal on any one of about four visits inside the 30 could have put some game pressure on the Gators, but they turned us over or backed us up every single time.

All in all, this is pretty much what the experts figured. Florida dominated the time of possession and Kentucky just could not sustain drives against the tough Florida defense. They did generate opportunities, but in almost every case, they shot themselves in the foot after doing so.

But I never felt, until the end of the third quarter, that this game was out of reach. Kentucky was doing enough that just a couple of breaks could have made it a one-touchdown game, and this game was in no way reminiscent of the last several years of savage beat-downs at the hands of the Gators. It was a game Kentucky lost convincingly, but they were in the game all the way up until the 4th quarter. That was a nice change, even if the outcome was not.

This football team is beginning to act like it might jump up and surprise somebody if they are taken lightly. It's pretty clear to me that Florida came in taking Kentucky very seriously considering their personnel losses, and the coaching staff showed great maturity in having their team play serious football instead of trying to show they could rack up huge margins.

Overall, I thought Kentucky showed improvement in most areas, but they were physically overmatched. That, plus the determination of Florida to focus on their advantages made Kentucky's path to an upset very difficult.

Next, the gauntlet continues as Kentucky travels to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina looked tentative this weekend against the Central Florida Golden Knights, but they will be prepared for UK. How this team competes on the road against an SEC team may tell us more about where they are than any game so far this season.

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