This win will help Leak begin to win over the team which still has factions that are in favor of Ingle Martin getting another shot. Martin, who is a team favorite among the older players, has handled his demotion with class, but as is the case in any program, a freshman who gets a lot of attention needs to produce to win the respect of his teammates. I think Leak took the first step to doing that by hitting Perez on 4th down for a touchdown.
For the first time in Gator History the defense started two freshmen at linebacker. Channing Crowder forced the interception by Jared Lorenzen and Earl Everett was solid in his debut. The true test will come against LSU and Arkansas, which are big physical teams.
The Gator running game never got in a rhythm Saturday because of field position and Kentucky's commitment to seven in the box versus the spread. Of the ten first down attempts by the Gators in the first half five were runs, four were passes and one was a penalty. On nine of the ten first down attempts UF gained 21 yards, while one pass play to Carlos Perez did get 69 yards. I think UF wanted to run the ball more but Kentucky was daring them to throw and Leak had to take his shots. Time of possession played a big part in the game while Kentucky dinked and dunked their way to short yardage situations on third down. The Wildcats converted 7of 10 third downs in the first half but only two in the second half, including one of five in the crucial 4th quarter.
One thing the Gator defense could improve is their red zone defense. Once again a team enters the redzone and comes away with touchdowns, as Kentucky went three for three. Defensively, I thought Johnny Lamar and Daryl Dixon continue to play well and be very active. Bobby McCray has begun to really take his play up a notch and Ray McDonald is the most consistent defensive lineman so far this season. The Gator defense did play well in the 4th quarter and that contributed to the victory. I have said this once I will say it one more time, this defense must come out focused, fired up with a lot of energy (like first half Miami) if they are going to be good. Now after watching the offense play Kentucky, I think the same can be said for that unit as well.
Florida's offense is in a funk right now and will be erratic until Leak gets more comfortable with the audible system. Players need to make plays for him including seniors. I thought the backs missed some holes and the offensive line had some costly penalties. They must be focused and ready to play against a bad defense in Ole Miss. Defensively, they need more three and outs while going against a solid passing team. Charlie Strong might want to mix some coverages and blitzes to try and confuse Eli Manning.