Kentucky’s loss at Florida looked very similar to Kentucky’s loss at Alabama, in that the Cats started out with some fight only to lose in embarrassing fashion in the end. A lot went wrong, a little went right, and these are 10 of the takeaways (mostly negative, unfortunately) from the 34-10 defeat in Gainesville.
1. Special teams made costly mistakes again.
Special teams continue to be a problem for UK as this game, like the last game and many before it, had its share of blunders; in fact, Florida’s first two touchdowns were made possible by special teams errors.
First it was the fake punt after Kentucky’s defense made a great stand on Florida’s first possession of the game. The Cats held the Gators to what appeared to be a three-and-out, until the punt team gave up a first down on a fake and then Florida’s offense scored a touchdown on the very next play.
Late in the half, All-American Max Duffy’s misplaced punt gave up a 50-yard return for a touchdown. And if you want to nitpick, Josh Ali’s fair catches on the 5-yard-line are a little exhausting.
2. Penalties are still a big problem.
Kentucky can’t expect to win many games with eight penalties for 74 yards, especially games in Gainesville or games in which the Cats are a 24-point underdog, and definitely not both. Florida’s fourth touchdown of the day was a gift, carefully wrapped up with tissue paper and a 15-yard indisputable facemask followed by a 15-yard facemask followed by an indisputable pass interference in the end zone. 45 yards in three plays, none of which were the worst penalty of the day.
3. Bossman Fat’s penalty was inexcusable.
Under no circumstances should someone even consider two-arm shoving a quarterback after the whistle, but that’s exactly what Kelvin Joseph did following a huge turnover caused by the Kentucky defense. Jordan Wright made the play to force a Florida fumble in Florida’s own territory and Jamin Davis was there to scoop it up. However, instead of taking over in striking distance, Joseph’s selfish and reckless behavior after the play moved the offense’s starting spot back with a penalty.
Discipline is one of the criticisms of Mark Stoops football.
4. The offense is terrible.
We can debate how the blame is dispersed but there’s no arguing that this offense is anything but bad. Kentucky matched Florida in total offense in the first half with 175 yards apiece, but Kentucky managed only 41 yards of offense and two first downs on six possessions after the break.
Punting out of the red zone on the first possession of the game said a lot of the red zone offense we’ve been dealing with too.
5. Kentucky scored one touchdown in games against Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
For this exercise we will throw out the Vanderbilt win (not to discredit that win but stick with me here) and point out UK scored only one touchdown in the other three games since Halloween. UK scored one singular field goal against Georgia, one singular field goal against Alabama, then a field goal and the Keaton Upshaw touchdown today in Gainesville. That’s one touchdown in 16 quarters of football for the offense in games that provide a chance to prove you’re for real. Kentucky’s offense is not for real, sadly.
6. Keaton Upshaw looked good. More tight end looks, perhaps?
We’ll throw in a positive here and give a little love to the tight end position. Like last week, Upshaw looked good early in the game with three catches and the lone touchdown. In the second half? He was targeted zero times.
Also like the Alabama game…
7. Kentucky missed Chris Rodriguez again.
AJ Rose and Kavoisey Smoke combined for over 100 yards on the ground, but the short yardage situations were still lacking. Chris Rodriguez picks up those short third downs. The other guys aren’t as bruising in how they run over defenders for positive yardage, and it was missed. Kentucky was 2-for-13 on third down.
8. Terry Wilson doesn’t have it.
Longtime Terry Wilson supporter here, tipping my cap to Wilson for what he gave the program as I acknowledge his time is ending on a sour note. Wilson missed several throws against the Gators and the most catchable ball he threw unfortunately went straight into the hands of a Florida linebacker, again, identical to last week’s interception at Alabama. Wilson found a play he liked but failed to see his opponent made the necessary adjustments the second time around. The result was a bad turnover and a roar of groans around the Bluegrass.
It will be interesting to see if Stoops hands it over to the future for the final game of the regular season. Define the “future” however you’d like. I have my guess.
9. Eddie Gran’s seat is blazing hot.
It’s more of the same from the play calling and that’s not a compliment, so Mark Stoops will have some thinking to do this offseason. Gran’s offense is handcuffed by poor receiver play (zero catches from that group outside of Josh Ali today) and the QB play is average at best, but the lack of adjustments and risk-taking are on the coaching staff. He’s shown creativity early in games at both Alabama and Florida, only to revert back to the usual nothingness. Now, barring a million yards against South Carolina, Kentucky’s offense will end 2020 ranked toward the bottom nationally with the best offensive line in the country.
10. Beat South Carolina and you still won four SEC games in one fall.
I’ll leave you with a positive spin on things, although I’ll admit it’s a reach after another embarrassing offensive performance in a loss that secures a losing season.
If Kentucky can beat South Carolina in the finale, there can still be happiness found in beating Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in one season. Those are four teams Kentucky plays every single year, and to get the upper hand on all four is a big step forward. Kentucky is down, yes, but four enemies are worse off, and in normal circumstances Kentucky could have three more non-conference wins and a potential blowout of Louisville on the schedule. It’s not excusing how things have gone, just trying to shine some light on things as we close the book on a disappointing Saturday.