That was not fun. For the fourth time in nine games, Kentucky’s offense put up just one touchdown or less as they tanked in the second half on the way to a 34-10 loss in The Swamp. The defense put together a pretty good effort holding a dangerous offense to 7.3 yards per play and for the first time all season the Gators were held under 38 points. It still wasn’t enough.
The Wildcats put up just 3.56 yards per play and you’re not going to come close to beating anyone with a pulse on offensive numbers like that. The Wildcats went eight straight possessions with five plays or less to end the game and ruined what could’ve been an upset bid in Gainesville.
It’s time to peel back the curtain and show what exactly went wrong, but it’s pretty obvious that some big changes need to be made. Mark Stoops is meeting a fork in the road moment for his program.
1) Take the Points
Kentucky got the ball to start the game and put together a very good drive. A.J. Rose broke a 17-yard run on the second snap and Terry Wilson hit Keaton Upshaw on fourth-and-three to move the chains and create the game’s first red zone possession. Then the offense went backwards. After a second down sack, UK faced a third-and-20 at the Florida 30 in what was likely a no win situation. You needed a draw or screen just to pick up yards to create a manageable field goal attempt to get you on the board early. That’s not what we saw.
Eddie Gran draws up a deep passing concept while Florida brings just four. However, the Gators run a twist stunt that catches Kentucky off balance. Kavoisey Smoke missed the outside linebacker while defensive Zachary Carter splits the double team of Luke Fortner and Landon Young. The play takes Kentucky out of field goal range.
A simple QB draw there easily gets 10-plus yards because of the stunt you caught Florida in. Instead, the offense gets greedy and ruins a scoring opportunity. Given what the Wildcats did in the upcoming possessions, missing here prevented the team from building a double-digit lead and putting some game pressure on the big home favorite.
Kentucky got the ball inside the Florida 10 with a little over nine minutes to play in the second quarter. They went on a beautiful 14-play drive eating over seven minutes of clock to go up 10-7. The defense responded with a big stop as UK seemed poised to win the all important Middle Eight. However, a beautiful punt by Jacob Finn put UK in a bad spot taking over at the one since Florida had three timeouts left.
The Wildcats were unable to move the chains and Florida was able to stop the clock to give their offense another chance at scoring before half. With 56 seconds left in the second quarter, Max Duffy uncorked the worst punt of his career.
UK had punt left on and that’s where the entire punt coverage team was running. Thankfully for Florida, the Gators had split returners back deep and the best playmaker on the field was right there to field the punt. Kadarius Toney made one man miss on his way to his first punt return touchdown of the season to totally flip the game.
Duffy has quietly had a not so great year and a bad punt came at the absolute worst possible time. It allowed Florida to win the Middle Eight and unofficially ended any shot UK had at an upset.
3) Missed Last Shot
Thanks to some questionable penalties, Florida easily marched down the field to score a touchdown on their first possession out of half. On the next possession, UK came up with a timely red zone stop to force a field goal and to keep the game within two possessions. It was now or never for the Kentucky offense.
After missing Isaiah Epps on first down and creating just one yard on a run on second down, Kentucky faced a big third-and-long. The last thing they could afford was another three-and-out and the team really needed a scoring drive. Then the worst thing possible happened.
Terry Wilson has Josh Ali open on an inside pivot route and if he hits him early it’s likely a first down. Instead the ball comes out a bit late and the quarterback spy comes up with an interception. Mohamoud Diabate does a great job reading the quarterback and his eyes lead him to the ball.
Three plays later, Florida punches it in to create a three touchdown lead and the game was officially over in the third quarter.
In a season full of them, Kentucky put together another woeful offensive performance. It really is a bummer that the Wildcats had to face the two best teams on their schedule without Chris Rodriguez Jr., but these are the hands we have been dealt in 2020 thanks to COVID-19. However, they need to be better than this.
Kentucky’s defense once again played good enough to win the football game and they kept the team alive for most of the day. After a very promising start in their first four possessions, the wheels came off in the second half and it resulted in a blistering loss.
There is one game remaining in the 2020 season and a likely bowl trip at the end of the year, but no one is really thinking about that right now. UK must fix their offensive issues and all eyes are on Mark Stoops to see what difficult decisions he ends up making.