Over the past year or so, I’ve carved out a nice little niche as KSR’s resident “outsider,” the person doing his best to give you an outside perspective on basically anything of interest to a Kentucky sports fan.
Admittedly, most of my posts have covered hoops – you know, college basketball, recruiting, the NBA Draft whatever – but every once in a while I do dabble my toes in the Kentucky football waters (my first post at KSR was actually on UK football). I don’t claim to be an expert. But there are times a year where football takes precedent over basketball.
And this feels like one of those days. After all, it’s not often the team I’m covering snaps a 31-game losing streak to a hated rival.
Therefore, today I will take a break from the hoops beat and share a few thoughts on Kentucky’s wild, 27-16 victory over Florida on Saturday night. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert (I leave that to folks like Nick Roush and others who are with the team every day), but after watching roughly 12 hours of all sorts of college football every Saturday (then talking about it on radio and podcast) I do feel like I’ve got a thing or two to say from time to time.
So what were this outsider’s thoughts on UK’s historic victory over Florida? Here are nine:
Benny Snell is the truth
Snell has been hyped as the best back in the SEC by a handful of experts from across college football the last few months, which isn’t surprising when you remember that he rushed for over 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore years.
Still, if there was any doubt just how good he was, Snell proved it to a national audience on Saturday night. On the evening, Snell finished with 175 yards, and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Not a bad night’s work, yet as impressive as those numbers were, watching him wrack up all that yardage was even more impressive.
Put simply, Snell is a complete back. He’s a guy who not only has size and speed, but also the vision to see holes before they open and burst through them once he does get that crease. And not to mention, he is one of the more powerful backs I’ve seen in college football as well. As Jordan Rogers said a few times on Saturday’s broadcast “there aren’t many running backs with as many yards after contact as Snell.”
No there aren’t.
And to be blunt, there aren’t many running backs anywhere in college football with the skills of Snell either.
The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the win
Writing about offensive line play is about as sexy as writing about help side defense in basketball, but in the case of Saturday night’s win, the guys up front deserve a ton of credit. With all the focus on Snell, Terry Wilson and the defensive pass rush, it feels like they’re being a little overlooked.
To the offensive line’s credit they absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage against a good Florida defense, opening holes and allowing Kentucky to average over seven yards per run. Admittedly, some of that was Snell simply running through tackles and Terry Wilson making people miss. But a lot of that was the guys up front too.
Still, you know what stood out to me the most about the line’s play? Remember that late touchdown throw that Terry Wilson had to Lynn Bowden Jr. (of course you remember, how could you forget!). Did you notice how much time Wilson had in the pocket there? He had forever to read the defense and deliver the perfect pass.
And that’s a credit to the big guys up front. They don’t always get the acknowledgment they deserve. But at least in this article, we’re going to change that.
The good outweighs the bad with Terry Wilson
I know there was some frustration with “Terry Touchdown” after an up-and-down Week 1 and for some mistakes early against Florida. But I’ll tell you what: By the end of the night, I think it was pretty clear that the good is going to outweigh the bad with this guy.
The simple truth is that having a quarterback with the speed and athleticism of Wilson can completely change a game. Yes, he had a fumble and threw a pick late in the first half, but the guy also made two or three plays with his feet that completely altered drives and led to points. It goes without saying that his 24-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was a complete game-changer, and watching him sprint through a fast and Florida defense tells you how truly athletic he is. His touchdown to Bowden shows that with time, he can throw a pretty deep ball as well.
The good news is that it’s only Week 2 and this guy is only going to get more comfortable as the season progresses. That’s a scary sign for the rest of the SEC East.
I see why NFL teams love Josh Allen
Yes, I know, I’m not exactly breaking news by saying that Josh Allen is damn good. Still, it’s one thing to read about him in a mock draft or even watch him in a game against inferior competition like Central Michigan last year. It’s quite another to see him absolutely control the game against what is – at least on paper – a solid offensive front from Florida.
You don’t need me to tell you just how good Allen was on Saturday night. The dude was all over the field, stuffing the run, making plays in pass coverage (yes, pass coverage!) and of course, adding a strip sack that sealed the win.
I’m no Mel Kiper Jr. (although I’d argue I have better hair). But I can’t imagine there are too many better linebackers anywhere in college football than Allen.
On the other side of the field, this wasn’t Dan Mullen’s best night
Look, I hope this doesn’t come off as me trying to take away something from Kentucky’s win. It isn’t. But in re-watching the game Monday morning, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, that wasn’t Dan Mullen’s best day.”
While Mullen is known as a guru for his time as offensive coordinate at Florida and head coach at Mississippi State, Saturday umm, left a lot to be desired. It was stunning to see the Gators continue to try and use Feliepe Franks as a runner (he finished with 44 yards rushing on 11 carries) and it also felt like they tried way too many deep balls, when the short and intermediate passing game seemed to be working just fine. It was also surprising how little that the Gators big-time playmakers, Jordan Scarlett and Kadarius Toney touched the ball. Scarlett got just seven carries total and only two in the second half. Toney – who is seemingly lightning in a bottle – averaged over 17 yards per catch, but only had two all game.
Look, in the end we all know Dan Mullen is going to get the Gators going. But Saturday was not his finest performance as a head coach.
The “missed” field goal was the first time that I felt like “Ok, there’s a chance this upset might happen”
Since we’re all friends here in the KSR Trust Tree, I’m just going to be 100 percent honest with you: I’ve watched college football for years and feel like I know the sport well. But I’ll admit that I had no idea about the field goal rule that took three points off the board for Florida late in the second half. You know what I’m talking about right? When the ball was kicked and went over the uprights, but was called no good. Apparently if the ball goes over the uprights, it needs to “appear” to be within them for the kick to be called good.
Yeah, I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea that was the rule. It totally makes sense why it’s the rule. But that was a new one to me.
Still, when you saw the kick called “no good” didn’t it just feel like it might be Kentucky’s night?
Remember, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Kentucky was both on Saturday night.
Shout out to KSBar
Actually, I take back everything I just wrote above.
Stat of the Day: Florida is winless against Kentucky since we've been open. #WhatStreak
— KSBar and Grille (@KSBarAndGrille) September 8, 2018
Honestly who needs luck when you’ve got the positive juju of KSBar? As the restaurant’s Twitter account acutely pointed out on Saturday night, Florida has never beaten Kentucky since the moment KSBar opened its hallowed doors, all of like a week-and-a-half ago.
And who said “The KSR curse” was a real thing?
Now back to the game – and let’s hit on something important here: There was nothing fluky about this win
Again, I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive to those of you who have waited so long for this victory. It isn’t meant as a knock at all.
But to me, the most surprising thing about this game was how unsurprising it truly was. Kentucky didn’t pull off the upset because of some fluky play or super-human performance from one of their players. They pulled it off because they were the better team. Plain and simple.
That came across in watching that game, and also in re-visiting the stat sheet afterwards as well. Again, the Wildcats controlled both lines of scrimmage averaging 7.4 yards per carry and getting pressure on Franks all day. Terry Wilson and Benny Snell made big-time plays because, well, they are big-time players.
Put another way, if someone who wasn’t a college football fan tuned into this game, they would have had no idea who was the “traditional power” and who was the team that’d lost 31 in a row. Kentucky had equal to, if not more talent than the Gators.
While part of that is probably an indictment on how far Florida fell under Jim McElwain the last few years, it also speaks to just how incredible the rebuilding job Mark Stoops has done as well.
Speaking of which…
Mark Stoops is right: There is so much more this team can do
As everyone picks up the pieces here early in the week following this victory, I thought that Mark Stoops actually brought up a super-important point on Monday that is sort of getting overlooked right now. In his press conference, he said point blank “There is so much more this team can do.” And although I’m an outsider, I totally agree.
The truth is that as historically important as this win was, it was far from a “complete” from Kentucky. As mentioned up top, Terry Wilson had back-to-back turnovers in the second quarter. Both were within Florida’s 35-yard line and both came after impressive 50+ yard drives. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Kentucky could have easily padded its halftime lead by at least six points and by as much as 14. Not to mention that Florida’s only real “scoring drive” (late in the second quarter) was aided by a big-time face-masking penalty. Overall, the Wildcats had 12 penalties for over 100 yards.
That is stuff that needs to get cleaned up. At the same time, can you imagine what the final score would have been without the turnovers and penalties? Obviously a lot more than it already was.
Which shows just how much further this team can go.
At the end of the day I have no idea how high this team’s ceiling is, and – after what we saw from Georgia and Mississippi State this weekend – there are still a lot of tough games left on the schedule. But after beating Florida in the Swamp, there aren’t many games – if any – where the Wildcats won’t go in with a puncher’s chance to win.
Point being that this weekend was an unbelievable, historic moment every Kentucky fan should enjoy.
But it could also just be the start of something really special for the Wildcats.