Kentucky fell to 3-6 following a 34-10 loss to Florida in the Swamp. Much like against Alabama, the Cats’ offense started the game strong but fizzled in the second half. Special teams were a nightmare. The Gators converted a fake punt for a first down, returned a punt for a score, and UK was penalized on three occasions in the third phase of the game. The defense battled for four quarters and played well enough to stay in the game for sixty minutes. Let’s take a look at how the Wildcats fared in relation to pregame goals.
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Score touchdowns in the Red Zone. Yes, and No. Kentucky entered the Red Zone on three occasions. Those trips resulted in one touchdown pass to Keaton Upshaw, a punt and a Matt Ruffolo field goal. UK marched the football 75 yards on its opening drive but stalled out when it entered the Red Zone. Two sacks and an incompletion led to a 4th and 30 and a Max Duffy punt. Finishing drives in the end zone has been an issue for the Cats all season.
Prevent Havoc Stats. No. The Gators entered Saturday’s contest leading the SEC in QB sacks and tackles for loss. Florida registered two sacks during UK’s first drive of the game which pushed the Cats out of the Red Zone. It also recorded seven tackles for loss, several of which occurred on third down plays.
Play a clean game. No. Kentucky quarterbacks accounted for three interceptions.
Slow down the Trask Machine. Somewhat, yes. Trask completed 21 passes for 256-yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers would be the preferred outcome for most quarterbacks. However, Trask entered the game as the SEC’s top passer, Heisman Trophy favorite and ranked 2nd in the nation by averaging 365-pass yards per game. While still highly effective, the Cats could have lived with those statistics and the final product was much less than expected.
Avoid matchup disadvantages against Kyle Pitts. No. Let’s be honest, Pitts forces disadvantageous matchups for all college football defenders. The senior didn’t disappoint vs. Kentucky by catching 5 passes for 99 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kyle Pitts is the best tight end in college football and possesses unique skills that lead to nightmare matchup scenarios for opposing teams.
Tackle Kadarius Toney. Yes. Toney finished the game with 3 receptions for 38 yards and did not score an offensive touchdown.
Snap the football. Yes. But, special teams as a collective were not good. Three penalties, allowing a conversion via a fake punt and surrendering a late, first half punt return for six points were too much to overcome for the offensively struggling Wildcats.
Tackle Toney. No. See above punt return for a touchdown.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Kentucky outplayed Florida in the first half and took a 10-7 lead deep into the second quarter. Special teams errors reared its ugly head at the worst possible moment and the Gators secured a 14-10 lead going into halftime. The second half led to another stale offensive performance which included just 46-total yards and three interceptions. UK was not efficient at extending drives with a 2/13 third down conversion ratio. Keaton Upshaw continued to show his progression and registered three first half catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. He was not targeted in the second half.
The passing game struggled which was evident from a 3.3-yards per attempt total. The Wildcats completed 10 out of 19 passes for 62-yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Kentucky runners did enjoy first half success. AJ Rose (17), Kavosiey Smoke (13), Terry Wilson (19), and Josh Ali (15) all had carries that resulted in a 10+ yards. The Cats rushed for 126 yards in quarters one and two but managed just 33 yards in the second half.
Brad White’s defense battled for four quarters. However, Florida had two scores that were directly impacted by special teams. The first was a successful Gator fake punt which led to a Kyle Trask to Kyle Pitts 56-yard touchdown. The second was a punt returned for a 50-yard score with less than a minute to go in the first half. Florida was averaging 522 yards per game but managed 418 vs. the Cats. Kentucky pressured Trask on occasion and limited Florida to 3/9 on 3rd down. Redshirt freshman JJ Weaver played one of his best games as a Wildcat. The defensive line also played their best game of the season. Kentucky forced two fumbles.
Penalties, turnovers, and bad special teams play will get you beat on the road. Those three factors led to a 34-10 loss in the Swamp. Kentucky has one more regular season game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. This group of seniors have provided the BBN with an abundance of fond memories and need to be sent out with gratitude but more importantly a win.