A second half offensive lull killed Kentucky’s chances of putting Florida away for good.
When Kentucky took a 24-14 lead with 5:54 remaining in the third quarter, the offense was imposing its will on Florida from all angles, especially in the passing game. Stephen Johnson was 13-of-17 for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Instead of sticking with Stephen Johnson, Eddie Gran turned to the running game.
The next UK offensive drive ended with a three and out. A fourth down defensive stop gave the UK offense the ball on the Florida 49-yard line. Five plays later, UK settled for a field goal. On UK’s next offensive possession there was another three and out.
Johnson dropped back to pass just three times between the 5:54 mark of the third quarter and the beginning of the game’s final drive with 43 seconds remaining. Two of the three passes were third down incompletions; the other was a second down sack.
After the game, I asked offensive coordinator Eddie Gran if they should have put the ball in Johnson’s hands more during that stretch.
“No,” he said without hesitation. “When we rush the ball, and if you’re the team that rushes the ball more, you usually win in this league. We were trying to get ’em. We had some pretty good explosive run plays. No, I don’t at all.
“We’re going to run the ball too. We’re going to pass the ball too. I thought we were balanced for awhile. I thought we had ’em off balanced. I thought he (Johnson) played a heck of a game. We have to be physical and we have to help our defense too. We can’t go three and out, three and out, three and out. We’re going to continue to run the football when we feel like we need to run the football.”
Gran felt like the team needed to run the football. From the stands, it felt like the Kentucky offense was playing not to lose.