Maybe it just took a 16-seed knocking off a 1-seed for the stars to align a bit. On September 8th, 2016, Kentucky went into The Swamp and made a statement to the rest of the SEC. Similar to UMBC’s showing, UK dominated the game in every facet as they averaged eight yards per play to Florida’s 5.4 as they pulled off a 27-16 victory.
Kentucky rushed for 303 yards compared to Florida’s 128. The Cats were hampered by some yellow laundry and some unfortunately timed turnovers that prevented the game from becoming a romp. For the night, UK had two first half turnovers on Florida’s side of the field and 12 penalties for 114 yards. Outside of that, it was borderline domination for the Wildcats as they ruined Dan Mullen’s SEC opener at Florida. The Swamp has been drained and a lot of ghosts have been put to sleep.
The UK offense only scored three touchdowns and that is a bit weird when you look at the box score. But that is where untimely penalties and turnovers reared their ugly head. Nearly every UK drive found itself in scoring territory (inside opponent’s 40) and UK, somehow, never found itself in the red zone. That’s because explosiveness is back in Eddie Gran’s offense.
The Wildcats now have six runs that have gone over 20 yards on the season and now two passes to cover 25+ yards. The best of the night came when Terry Wilson found Lynn Bowden for his first career touchdown reception.
It’s good to see the deep post return after UK missed on it so many times last season. Wilson, in his first career road game, was flawless if you take out the turnovers. For the night, the sophomore ran for 107 yards on 10 carries and passed for 151 yards on 16 attempts as he was responsible for each of UK’s scores. Wilson averaged 9.9 yards per touch and that is going to win you a lot of football games.
In the game preview, I mentioned just how much I liked this spot for the offensive line and I thought they truly had a chance to make a statement against a front seven that has depth issues and too much hype. They answered the bell and then some as UK rushed for over 300 yards in an SEC game for the third time since 2016. The play of the night came from redshirt senior Bunchy Stallings who asked for some extra syrup.
All in all, it was a total team effort as the offensive line flexed its muscles, Benny Snell continues to cement his legacy, and Eddie Gran called a great game. It won’t be mentioned anywhere but the wideouts did a terrific job blocking on the edge as their ability to hold blocks led to UK getting those runs of over 20+ yards.
Penalties were a killer and it prevented UK from scoring at least two more times but overall a great performance by the Wildcats.
Entering the contest, Dan Mullen’s offense had put up an average of 42.5 points against Kentucky since 204 on his way to an 8-1 overall record. Even with a shaky quarterback situation, most assumed Florida would have a significant advantage on this side of the field.
That couldn’t be further from the case as Matt House’s unit played lights out as they forced two turnovers, scored a defensive touchdown to end the game, and limited Florida to 360 total yards. The defensive line more than held their own and the back eight of the UK defense played to their potential.
A year after just being torched by SEC foes through the air, Kentucky balled out on SEC Saturday Night. A week after tossing for five touchdowns and averaging over nine yards per attempt, Feliepe Franks only completed 17 passes on 38 attempts with a 6.1 yards average. The sophomore coughed up the football two times as Darius West recorded his second career interception and Josh Allen ended the game with a strip sack.
In a strange strategy, Mullen’s offense threw 38 times compared to just 29 rushing attempts. Running back seemed to be a strength for UF entering the contest but their trio of backs only received 20 touches on the night. That is some real questionable decision making by the Florida staff.
For the night, Kash Daniel once against led the team in tackles and he continues to impress in his first season as a full-time starter. On the season, he leads the SEC in tackles. Darius West missed his fair share of tackles but he chipped in eight stops and one very timely interception. The pass defense was excellent for the Wildcats as UK had six pass break-ups to go with the pick.
Josh Allen continues to ball out in his senior season as he stuffed the box score. The future NFL draft pick had five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass break-up, and a QB hurry on the night. He’s a stud and is currently one of the top five defensive players in the SEC.
The interior defensive line continues to produce as they combined to collect six tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and a pass break-up. The group suffered a setback with Quinton Bohanna leaving the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury but they answered the call. Marquan McCall made his college debut and the former blue-chip recruit held his own.
Entering the season, it was viewed as a huge year for the Kentucky defense as they returned nearly their entire unit from last season and needed to show they can be a strength and not a weakness. So far they have achieved all of those goals as opponents are averaging just 4.6 yards per play after eight quarters. Its been a team effort with everyone contributing.
Be opportunistic about this group, Big Blue Nation.
It was another overall solid outing for the third phase and Max Duffy is the main reason why. The sophomore from Australia continues to be an important weapon as two of his four punts were downed inside the 20. The best one came in the fourth quarter as he pinned the Gators at their own one-yard line.
Penalties also reared their head here as two calls negated returns for Kentucky and severely hurt them in the field position battle. It still seems clear that the staff does not trust Miles Butler outside of 40 yards but he remained perfect on extra points. Grant McKinniss continues to be effective on kickoffs as two of his four went for touchbacks.
It was another solid night for Dean Hood’s unit.
There was a dark cloud hanging over this program and the fact of the matter is that they weren’t going to get any national respect without picking up the win over Florida. After the meltdown last year at Kroger Field, a good portion of the fan base had tuned out. They should be back now.
Kentucky not only beat Florida but they left no doubt at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It was clear that UK had better dudes in the trenches, the best player on each side of the football, and Mark Stoops outcoached Dan Mullen. Oh, and having Steve Spurrier there in attendance made it pretty sweet.
As we’re two games into the season, we can see why Terry Wilson is the unquestioned guy at quarterback. With his ability to run the football and stretch the field vertically via the forward pass, Wilson makes this rushing attack absolutely lethal. The offensive line is one of the best in the country and Benny Snell is beginning to make a Heisman case. With Wilson behind center, this is an offense that can do some special things. He’s still going through obvious growing pains but Kentucky needs to ride or die with him this season.
Turnovers have been a major issue through two games but it was good to see the defense produce two takeaways in the fourth quarter to close out the game. The defense has shown major improvement since last year and it’ll need to continue to get better with a powerful and explosive Mississippi State offense coming to Lexington in two weeks.
Last night will go down as one of the best nights in UK fan history. The Wildcats finally knocked off the Gators and did it against a head coach that has had the program’s number over the last decade. They did it by running the ball down Florida’s throat and making things very difficult for an offense with high expectations. The victory will be remembered for a long time and it sets the table for 2018 to potentially be a special season. Enjoy it, Big Blue Nation. We all know you earned it.
On to Murray State.