The Kentucky Wildcats broke a three-decade losing streak the last time they played in Gainesville. But the mistakes they made against the Florida Gators this year almost makes up for the nearly perfect game two years ago. Kentucky lose their second game in a row on Saturday 34-10.
Kentucky looked great in the first quarter: moving the ball seemingly at-will, stopping Florida drives, and causing turnovers. The Wildcats even led the game 10-7 near the end of the second quarter. But then the historic mistakes of the program all came knocking at once. Here are the things you need to know about Saturday’s loss.
I do not remember ever seeing back-to-back facemask penalties before. That was followed by a holding penalty on the next possession, a defensive offsides when Florida was looking at a 3rd-and-short, and a costly personal foul after a recovered fumble. It was like, all of a sudden, every single bit of Kentucky’s discipline went out the window.
The Wildcats were making horrible physical and mental mistakes that almost made it impossible for them to gain any momentum. But even if the turnovers had not been such a problem, the play on special teams would have made sure all momentum was dead anyway.
Kentucky held Florida to a three-and-out on their first offensive series. Or that is at least what we thought until Florida faked the punt (from within their own 30 yard line) and waltzed to a first down. The fake was completely unexpected and the Wildcats were nowhere close to defending it. That converted first down led to a touchdown for the Gators.
When leading 10-7 leading up to halftime, Kentucky’s punt team seemed to fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book. Florida’s return team ran to block for the return man on the right, while the returner on the left caught the ball and ran fairly uncontested into the end zone. That gave Florida a 14-10 lead going into the half, and when they received the ball at the beginning of the third quarter they did nothing but pile it on.
The special teams play has been relatively atrocious throughout the season. The absence of former special teams coordinator Dean Hood has been obvious, and it looks as though the ball has not been picked up by anyone else on the coaching staff. Shame on them. Of course, they should carry the blame for a lot of things.
The point of calling timeouts when an opponent has the ball near the end of the second or fourth quarters is that you want another chance to score. Kentucky has been very well known for not being aggressive offensively near halftime. That is almost as well known as they are for botching time management at the end of the second quarter.
Mark Stoops called timeout when Florida failed to convert a third down with just over two minutes left in the second quarter. The Wildcats were pinned deep by a great Florida punt. They then chose to try and run the clock out. Of course, Florida called timeouts in hopes they would get another opportunity to run their offense. They did not need that chance, though, since they returned tine aforementioned punt for a touchdown.
Kentucky was very impressive moving the ball in the first half. But when pressure was put onto the offense by a growing deficit, the offense looked completely lost. The execution was poor, yes. But this offense is designed to hold the ball in close games and run the clock out. The Wildcats had 61 passing yards today. For the entire game. What is that?
Nobody on the Kentucky sideline knows what to do offensively when they desperately need to put points on the board.
I am not calling for coaching changes. I do not want anyone to lose their job. But given the trajectory of this season, things definitely need to change. Terry Wilson’s thrown interceptions looked awful. Aside from Josh Ali and Keaton Upshaw, there were no receiving threats on the field.
The Wildcats coaching staff needs to look to the future and use the next game against South Carolina to start planning for next season. I know a lot of guys have been out lately, but the guys that are out there have not been performing. There is a lot of young talent on the bench, and the more reps they can get before this crazy season is over, the better.