Kentucky fell last night to Florida 36-30 in triple overtime, and it was a much better performance on both sides of the ball than I thought we had any reason to expect. We said in the pregame that Kentucky would have to bring their best to compete with Florida, and whether or not this is the best they can deliver, it is certainly the best they have played all season, taken as a whole.
I think at this point we need to congratulate Florida for getting it done at home, and under quite a bit of duress. They showed a lot of poise down the stretch as they traded blows with Kentucky, and that deserves to be recognized. It’s a little difficult to be magnanimous when your team had a legitimate shot to end the longest active losing streak in college football, but I think we have to give the Gators full credit.
The bad call at the end where the play clock ran out on the Gators may have cost Kentucky the game, but it’s not a foregone conclusion as I said earlier. There is no game clock in overtime, so Florida would have merely suffered a 5-yard penalty and replayed the down, and been in 4th and 12. I’d like to think we would have held them just like we held LSU back in 2007, but unfortunately, we’ll never know. Bad calls are a part of the game, and some appear more costly than others, but it isn’t as if the game would’ve ended had that call been made.
I think we can all be very proud of the effort, and it is both understandable and fair that we should be frustrated with the officiating under the circumstances. Having said that, we have to let it go now and move on to the next game, which is Vanderbilt two weeks from yesterday. Wuz we robbed? Maybe, but if so it isn’t the first time and won’t be the last. Sports are like that.
The Wildcats competed with Florida on an equal level on both sides of the field. That, in itself, is of surpassing significance, since for the last several years the Gators have outclassed Kentucky be miles. Not yesterday. Just taken in isolation, that one fact makes a huge amount of difference to Kentucky football fans. With this game, and that does assume it will continue in future games of less emotional significance, the Wildcats announced their return to the SEC as a genuine football team. For all I know, we’ll lose every one of our remaining SEC games — this is a tough old world and the SEC is an unforgiving conference. But I don’t think so.
Full stats at UKAthletics.com)Statistical summary (
|NET YARDS RUSHING||81||237|
|Average Per Rush||2.5||4.7|
|Yards Gained Rushing||108||251|
|Yards Lost Rushing||27||14|
|NET YARDS PASSING||369||295|
|Average Per Attempt||8.2||6.7|
|Average Per Completion||15.4||11.8|
|TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS||450||532|
|Total offense plays||78||94|
|Average Gain Per Play||5.8||5.7|
|Average Yards Per Punt||39.8||48.7|
|Net Yards Per Punt||39.8||45.5|
|Average Yards Per Kickoff||55||64.8|
|Net Yards Per Kickoff||29||39.8|
|Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD||2-19-0||0-0-0|
|Average Per Return||9.5||0|
|Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD||1-25-0||4-104-0|
|Average Per Return||25||26|
|Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD||0-0-0||0-0-0|
|Third-Down Conversions||6 of 16||5 of 17|
|Fourth-Down Conversions||0 of 0||1 of 1|
|Sacks By: Number-Yards||2-5||2-20|
|Points off turnovers||0||6|
The first thing that jumps out at me is net rushing. UK surrendered 237 yards on the ground. Kentucky has to clean that up. The Gators held Kentucky to 81 total yards on the ground. Run blocking has to improve, as a 2.5 yard per carry average will not win a lot of football games in the SEC.
Passing yards are very even. Towles was 24 for 45 (.533). That’s not great, but against a team as speedy and athletic in the secondary as Florida, it’s pretty good.
Total offense was 450-532 in favor of Florida. We hung right there with them.
The punting game was excellent for both squads. Special teams, to my memory, played pretty well overall. The biggest negative for either team was missed field goals — UK missed one very makeable field goal, and Florida missed one makeable field goal and one unlikely field goal. UK also got a break on one kick that looked wide, but somehow hit the inside of the upright and went through. My wife commented that it looked like the finger of God moved it as it flew.
Turnovers favored the Gators, 3-1, and all were intercepted passes. If you want to look at any stat for the reason UK lost, that’s the one. One interception was a great defensive play, but two of them were well-thrown balls that hit the UK receiver in the hands, and somehow wound up in the Florida defenders hands. Both were extraordinarily fluky plays. The one takeaway by Kentucky was a bad throw to nowhere by Jeff Driskel to avoid a blitz.
Time of possession favored Kentucky (the stats seem to have this wrong, giving Florida all 15 minutes of overtime) 25:21 to 23:30 by my quick mental calculation. That surprises me pleasantly, and partially explains how Kentucky was able to keep the defense from totally wearing down.
Red zone scoring was a problem for Kentucky. UK rarely visited the red zone, and they converted neither appearance there into touchdowns. All UK’s touchdowns happened from outside the red zone, but Kentucky did manage field goals in both red zone appearances. Florida, conversely, got there seven times and converted all of them, four for touchdowns (2 in overtime.)
Quarterback sacks were all even at 2. I thought UK did a very good job of getting pressure on Driskel in the middle of the game, but on either end, not as much.
Garrett Johnson caught six balls for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He was a revelation, and I hope this heralds the emergence of a new weapon. Johnson was only a 3-star prospect from Florida and not as heralded as Dorian Baker and Blake Bone, but he had himself a game yesterday. He and Patrick Towles share the game ball.
Patrick Towles has now played well three games in a row, and is emerging as a genuine SEC-level quarterback. He threw for 369 yards yesterday against one of the stoutest defenses in the SEC, and probably the best defensive backfield UK will face all season. He spread the ball out, too, hitting Johnson, Demaro Robinson, Ryan Timmons, Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, Stanley Williams and Braylon Heard for 3 touchdowns — Johnson twice for touchdowns and Boom Williams once for a touchdown. He definitely deserves a share of the game ball.
Braylon Heard had a decent game in spite of his still-gimpy ankle. He ran for 42 yards in 12 carries for a 3.2 yard average. Florida’s interior run defense was very stout.
"Boom" Williams continues to get better, and when he gets a crease, he is deadly.
Ryan Timmons was okay, but he was responsible for one of Towles interceptions, and dropped a couple of balls.
I believe it was Dorian Baker who lost the other football that hit him in the hands and wound up being caught by a Florida DB. Baker was otherwise okay, but didn’t have as much of an impact as I thought he might.
Javess Blue didn’t make much of an impact on the game, and I blame his still-tender ankle.
Kentucky was a little bit unbalanced in their run/pass attack, although the Gators were just too tough for UK to run against, which put the Wildcats in a lot of third and long.
Kentucky converted 6 of 16 third downs (0.375), four of them 3rd and long.
Kentucky’s most successful play type was a first-down pass. They completed 13 of 19 of them (.684) and the play went for 10 yards or more six times. Does this argue for a more pass-heavy attack? I’ll let you experts sort that out.
Kentucky’s longest run from scrimmage was Patrick Towles on that 24-yard scramble.
Apparently, Jeff Badet played. I had thought he was still out with injury. If so, it’s good that he’s back available.
Blake Bone had a pretty good game. Once again, he showed how he can draw interferences by just being way taller than the defensive back. Towles is starting to look for him a lot more often.
Za'Darius Smith finally made his presence felt. Smith had 5 solo and 5 assists, a pass breakup (saved a touchdown) and half a sack. Game ball.
Fred Tiller led the team in tackles with 8 solo and 3 assists fro 9.5 total and one pass breakup. It’s not necessarily a good thing when you have a defensive back lead the team in tackles, but I thought Tiller had a decent game in coverage.
I thought Josh Forrest had a fantastic game: 5 solo tackles, 5 assists for 7.5 tackles plus one TFL.
Jason Hatcher had a big game. The sophomore had 3 solo and 1 assist, two of which were TFL’s and the other was a sack.
Blake McClain had a really good game as well, 3 solo, 2 assists and 3 quarterback hurries.
Bud Dupree, Khalid Henderson, A.J. Stamps, J.D Harmon and Cody Quinn all played very well.
One of Kentucky’s players, either Mike Douglas or Melvin Lewis, I don’t remember which,Regie Meant could have been ejected in the first half for a late hit and what appeared on the replay to be a targeting foul that did not get called. Kentucky had too many personal fouls and arguably should've had one more.
Tying it all up
In the end, this was just one more of those "because Kentucky" games, like the Bluegrass Miracle. The best takeaway from this game is that the Wildcats were competitive, and almost managed to defeat Florida in the Swamp — in fact, nobody I know of would have predicted the Wildcats would manage to hold the Gators to only a field goal at half time.
I think, despite the comments of "there are no moral victories," we have to take this as a moral victory. Florida was still the better team, but not by nearly as much as even last season. That gives us hope, conviction even, that the Wildcats have finally become competitive in the SEC. How competitive remains to be seen, but after yesterday, I’m holding out hope for two SEC victories this season rather than one, although I wouldn’t care to speculate who’d be the likely victims other than Vanderbilt. Based on their performance so far, I’d say Kentucky now has a realistic shot at bowl eligibility. That puts them about a year ahead of schedule.
Mark Stoops’ passion really showed through last night, and that was good to see. He is no longer resigned to beat-downs at the hands of SEC powers, and his comments about "I felt like our players really grew up tonight and really came here to win the game and really believed we were going to win the game – the whole way through" reflected that. I believe him when he says it… I think.
Anyway, this one is over. Time to move on to Vanderbilt Commodores, a team that looks very vulnerable to Kentucky when they come to Commonwealth Stadium in two weeks.