FOOTBALL: It wasn't riveting, but it was a win

Saturday's win over Kentucky was not the stuff of legend. It was a sloppy performance in which Florida wasted numerous scoring opportunities, showed a commitment to mismanage the final minutes of the half, ANY half, and let an inferior opponent hang around for way too long.

That said, it was also a day for an impressive performance from TB Ciatrick Fason, a 500-plus yard effort from the offense and an encouraging sign of improvement from the Gator defense.

Coming into the game the question was which Kentucky offense was for real, the inept clowns shutout by Louisville or the explosive unit which scored 51 against Indiana. Having seen them in person, two things are clear:

  1. Indiana might have the worst defense in division one football

  2. Kentucky should stop choosing offensive plays by pulling slips of paper out of a cereal bowl

It's hard to figure out exactly what Kentucky planned to do on offense. Quarterback Shane Boyd ran the ball 14 times, while explosive tailback Tony Dixon had three. In fact Boyd had more carries than all of his teammates combined. Foolish! The Kentucky passing game was gift-wrapped for the Florida defense with at most five throws of 15 yards or more. It's a shame this guy wasn't calling plays for Tennessee last week.

With a Kentucky team playing to its strength, the Gator defense effectively took advantage of it, limiting the MILDcats to 207 yards of total offense. Kentucky got 56 yards on its first drive and then Florida held them to a total of 64 yards on the next nine possessions. I thought Everett and Crowder both played much better while the DTs owned the middle. Jeremy Mincey was by far the most active DE while Brandon Siler took advantage of his limited opportunities. The secondary stayed much closer to the receivers.

Offensively, the Gators pretty much did whatever they wanted to do between the 25-yard lines, but had their worst "red-zone" day in recent memory. At the end of three quarters, Florida had driven the ball inside the Kentucky 25 seven times and had six points to show for it. Two turnovers, two missed field goals and a stoppage on downs added up to a 13-3 lead that should have been a complete blowout. Only Ciatrick Fason's sensational 46-yard scoring run kept the Gators from being shut out of the end zone to that point.

And the end of the half failure was astounding. 1st and goal at the four with a minute to go, Florida calls timeout. Why? Kentucky is on its heels, and a minute is an eternity in which to get off three plays. Here's what follows:

  1. Fason for three yards, second and goal inside the 1… timeout… WHY?

  2. Guerrero false starts, moving the ball back to the six

  3. Leak scrambles for 2, setting up 3rd down at the 4, timeout, WHY? With :30 still on the clock, Florida had plenty of time to call a play. Saving the time out gives Leak the freedom to make any decision he sees fit. Instead, with no time outs, he had to throw it, and chose the wrong place.

The thing to do was line up right after the run to the 1 yard line and run it again. Same play for all I care. Kentucky couldn't stop the run, that much was already obvious.

It's kinda funny. It was as if the Old HBC was calling plays in close, throwing the ball when runs were working. Live and learn. Still, a 17-point win over Kentucky is about what was expected. And that's a good thing.

TOP FIVE THINGS FROM THIS GAME

  1. Defense got a little salty. More physical, more hats flying to the ball than what we saw against Tennessee. That has to be a weekly occurrence.
  2. Ciatrick Fason was great. First 200-plus for a Gator runner since Emmitt Smith's 316-yard record-setter against New Mexico. C-4 said in the summer he was aiming for 15-hundred. At this pace he would have 1,452 not counting the SEC Title game or a bowl game.
  3. Defense played more guys. I guess the coaches read last week's column because we saw a lot more of Siler, Morant, Parker and McMillan. But I still want more Brandon Siler!
  4. Vernell Brown breaks loose on a 43-yard punt return. The longest punt return since 2001 set up the clinching score.
  5. Mo' Bett'a Bubba. Andre Caldwell caught 8 passes for 84 yards as Florida's top receiver. Kentucky did a good job getting physical with OJ Small and disrupting his crossing routes. Caldwell took up the slack.

BOTTOM FIVE THINGS FROM THIS GAME

  1. End of half fiasco. For the second straight week Florida wastes a scoring opportunity right before halftime. In close game it can be the difference between winning and losing, As it was against Tennessee. It has to stop.
  2. Too many penalties. Blame the refs if you want… and this group is nutso.. but 11 flags for 91 are way too much. Florida relies on discipline and must get back to that approach. Penalties were big factors in Florida's inability to cash in scoring opportunities.
  3. Leak is human. I suspect we knew it all along, but Florida's QB sensation has not played like that before. Two of the interceptions were just awful throws. The third led a receiver right into a nasty hit from a safety. This is Florida's least concern and with good reason.
  4. Still no sacks. Opposing QBs have now thrown 105 passes with only two quarterback sacks allowed. Quick throws are part of it, but not all of it.
  5. Special teams lapses continue. Despite the punt return, Florida missed a pair of field goals (one blocked) and averaged just 30 yards on two punts.

So that's the Gators after three games. It's really been tough for these guys to deal with all the weather problems that have disrupted class and practice schedules. You have to give a tip of the hat to Ron Zook and his staff for getting these guys to play at a pretty high level despite three of the first four games on the schedule being screwed up due to one hurricane after another.

OTHER SATURDAY OBSERVATIONS

Look for FSU to give Chris Rix lots of time to get his ankle healthy, giving Wyatt Sexton a chance to take over. Sexton brings none of Rix's remarkable ability to the field, but demonstrated smarts, patience and poise in directing FSU past Clemson. And that may be all they need from him.

SEC embarrassments continue with Ole Miss losing to Wyoming and Vandy falling to Navy… NAVY? Only Army loses to NAVY!! The top of the league may be as good as any other, but the bottom of the SEC may be the weakest it's been in a long time.. and that's surprising to me.

Buddy Teevins almost shocked the world. The Stanford Head Coach and former Gator assistant really had his Cardinal ready to shock the men of Troy Saturday, but seemed to run out of gas late. Helluvan effort, though.

Arkansas will be tough for the Gator defense with their strong running game and Matt Jones' ability to throw as demonstrated last year. The Hogs ground up Alabama and added a late score to make the final margin more impressive. The Hogs defense will be hard-pressed to deal with the Gator running game, though.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! Many emails this week had them and had to be left unopened. My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

Finally, I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.


Fightin Gators Top Stories