With the cupcakes out of the way for now, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the big keys to knocking off Florida next Saturday.
Capitalize on mistakes – If Tim Tebow’s Florida offense was one of Biblical proportions, the John Brantley version has been something a little more fit for the book of Scientology. Despite having yet to throw an interception, Brantley ranks 9th in the conference in passing yards and seventh in passer rating while heading an offense that’s had as much trouble snapping the ball as Kevin O’Shea’s crew had defending the ‘Annexation of Puerto Rico.’ All this is to say that the Florida offense is not the well-oiled machine that it has been in recent years, and will give the Cats’ D chances to make big plays. Kentucky has to take advantage of any mistakes the Gators make to help even the playing field and spring the upset.
Make Florida earn it – Even if the offense hasn’t been as in sync as we’ve seen Florida in recent seasons, it’s not for a lack of athletes. Jeff Demps, not to mention others, has the ability to turn a defense on its head in one play. Kentucky can’t let that happen. The Gators will score, but the Cats D has to play well enough that it’s not easy in order to give themselves a chance to win. Big plays have killed Kentucky against Florida over the last few seasons, with the Cats giving up touchdowns of over 30 yards in each of the last four meetings. Limiting or eliminating Florida’s ability to take out huge chunks of the field in single snaps will make it possible for our own capable offense to keep pace.
Tackle…well. – And what’s the best way to limit big plays? Wrap up and take down, that’s what. The tackling, and defense in general, hasn’t lived up to its potential in the first three games of the season, but the unit must come to play in Gainesville. If they have a chance at a sack, it must be converted, but even more important is tackling in space. Florida’s offense is geared around getting their best players in open spaces and letting them make defenders look silly. It generally works out pretty well for Urban’s crew, and has been a major reason that their offense’s early struggles have still resulted in three big wins. If the Cats’ tackling is solid, it can negate the playmakers to an extent and keep Florida within arm’s reach. And, whether this fits in the section or not, Big Blue cannot, under any circumstances, give up a touchdown on special teams.
Run the ball – It’s not exactly hard-hitting analysis to say that we need to run the ball well to pull off a win in any game, let alone one in the Swamp. But the magnitude of the opponent only magnifies the need for us to run the ball effectively. On the road and especially against a more talented team, the Cats must control a little bit of clock, keep their defense off the field and fresh, and limit Florida’s possessions, all of which can be achieved through a successful rushing attack. Mike Hartline can, and will be asked to, make several big plays against the Gators, but running well means the burden to move the offense won’t solely rest on his shoulders. The more balanced we can be, the better our chances.
Don’t turn it over – As important as it is for Kentucky to take advantage of the mistakes Florida will make, it’s doubly important that Kentucky’s offense doesn’t make many of their own. The Cats have yet to surrender the ball this season, and now would be a pretty bad time to start. While I think they can survive one turnover, provided it doesn’t go for a touchdown, trying to overcome multiple giveaways will make an already uphill battle even more difficult. Handing the ball back to Florida, and potentially canceling out a stop the defense made, is the best way for Kentucky to take themselves out of the game and can’t happen if there’s to be some real magic in Gainesville.
So there you go. Some of the things Kentucky has to do in order to pull off a shocker in the Swamp. It sounds so simple when you blog about it, doesn’t it?