Tonight was tough.
It was tough to watch. It was tough finding optimism. It was tough to see the ridiculous hype amount to very little production on the field. It was a sloppy game, filled with flags, drops and missed opportunity after missed opportunity.
Despite all of the awfulness. Despite less than 250 yards of offense and only eight completed passes. Despite the opening drive interception, Kentucky still had the ball with 2:26 left, three timeouts and a chance to win the ball game.
Unfortunately, Kentucky didn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity. If the Cats had played just a little bit cleaner, if they had been just a little more opportunistic, we’d be having the Grove St. Party of the century.
Instead, it’s another year of waiting to finally get a win over Florida.
A Similar Start
Last week at South Carolina, Dorian Baker dropped a first down pass that was put in his bread basket. Two plays later, an interception. On a first down in tonight’s first drive, Dorian Baker made a move to get open on Vernon Hargreaves in the end zone. Patrick Towles put it in his bread basket, but Dorian dropped it. Two plays later, an interception.
Six points. Kentucky lost by five. There’s much more to why UK couldn’t find a win, but it’s just one of the many opportunities the Cats missed that they could not afford to miss.
The Drive the Cats Died, When They Should Have Thrived
The third quarter was once again a low-light of the game. Florida was taking advantage of exceptional field position, using momentum to drive it down the Cats’ throat. Florida was up 14-3 and running away with the game, until JD Harmon made another HUGE interception.
Harmon gave the stadium a spark it desperately needed. Patrick Towles made a miraculous run on third down to get into Florida territory. After a 15-yard Florida penalty and big run from Jojo Kemp, Kentucky was suddenly on the 5-yard line as the 3rd quarter came to a close.
Unfortunately, nothing happened. Seven plays, most of them runs, and not once did they come close to the end zone. The stadium was ready to explode, but the momentum reached a stalemate when they settled for a field goal. An opportunity they could not afford to miss.
The Offensive Playcalling was Questionable
I hate throwing the coordinator under the bus, but goodness gracious. There was a large portion of the game where one could wonder if Patrick’s arm was hurt because they absolutely refused to throw the football. To make matters worse, the runs were boring and uncreative. Just when you thought they might setup a play-action for a deep ball, they ran it again. It. Was. Brutal.
“I gotta do better,” Shannon Dawson said after the game.
It would be a disservice to the offense to not commend Florida’s defense. The speedy pass rush caused the pocket to collapse early and often. Vernon Hargreaves played like the best cornerback in the country. The players catching the passes weren’t helping the QB either. They weren’t dropping balls left and right, but they certainly didn’t make any plays either.
Regardless of the reason, UK cannot expect to win when the offense plays that poor.
Will Grier Looked Like a Superstar
The redshirt freshman didn’t look like he had never played on the road. He made some exceptional throws that were impossible for UK to make a play on, which only looked better when his receivers made great catches. Kentucky sacked him twice, but his juke stick made them miss so many more. He finished the game with 125 yards passing, and led the team in rushing with 61 yards and a touchdown.
But the Defense Showed Up
Florida was most successful after the Cats had played 5-6 seconds of great defense. The receivers were defended well and pressure forced Grier out of the pocket, but that’s where he made his money. The first touchdown of the game was a 4th and 1 scramble on the goal line; one good angle away from a HUGE stop. They did manage to make a stop in the red zone shortly after. A chip shot field goal was pushed back on a 5-yard penalty before C.J. Johnson swatted it away. The defense kept them in the game, and Kentucky wouldn’t have had a chance without JD Harmon’s end zone interception.
It’s Only One Loss
That was tough for me to type. It’s tough for me to believe. This losing streak has been tough on the BBN, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of football left to play.
This year’s game felt different. There was a hype, an expectation that we could finally get it done. At the end of the day, they’re still Florida and we’re still Kentucky.
The loss stings, but this loss won’t define Kentucky’s season.