Defensively the Gators really weren't out there long enough to do much. Earl Everett had two interceptions and Brandon Siler recovered a fumble keeping Kentucky a long way form the Florida end zone after the opening series. It was a real plus to see young linemen Clint McMillan, Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss get playing time early. Moss registered a sack while Harvey and McMillan provided hurries.
Nothing Is Perfect
As impressive as the first 30 minutes was, it didn't start out that way. Florida went three-and-out to start and when Phil Trautwein looked the wrong way, Eric Wilbur's punt was blocked setting Kentucky up on the 16-yard line. The Mildcats scored in three plays.
Wilbur early kickoffs were awful and the coverage was no better, giving the Mildcats excellent field position over and over again. Nick Fleming got his chance and capitalized, knocking his first kick to the 3-yard line near the sideline and registering touchbacks on the next three. Looks like that job's settled. Tate Casey dropped a sure touchdown… his second such drop of the year.
Second Half A Different Game
The last 30 minutes were about as nauseating as I have ever watched. Where's the damn discipline? Stupid penalties, indifferent effort and butt-ugly special teams combined to allow Kentucky to outscore UF 21-nothing over the last two periods. It got so bad Florida's first-teamers, who were pulled WAY too early, went back in after an hour of sitting around patting each other on the back for a job well done. That's risky business and you worry about someone pulling a cooled off muscle going back out there.
It started with the second half kickoff as Florida allowed Kentucky to take it to midfield. First play, the second defense comes in and Johnny Demps misses an easy sacks and a coverage bust puts the ball inside the 20. Later, a reverse works when Reggie Nelson misses a tackle.
Florida's first offense series started with Chris Leak and ended up with Josh Portis. The drive stalled and the teams exchanged punts. Florida had a chance to score on their next possession, but a penalty that was either incredibly dirty, incredibly stupid or both pushed Florida back. Walk-on receiver Kyle Morgan inexplicably dove at a DB's knees 40 or more yards away from the play and the clip cost Florida.
The fourth quarter it was more of the same. Tony Joiner's interception and return gave Florida first and goal, but Portis fumbled away the chance. Kentucky then goes the length of the field, aided by poor tackling; no pass rush and a roughing-the-passer call on Jarvis Moss for a blow to the face. By the way, he was also offsides on the play. Pass interference led to a touchdown, although I thought the call against Avery Atkins was a poor one.
So Kentucky is within 28, the game is not in doubt, but the Mildcats try a pooch on-sides kick. No one tried to catch it… not any effort at all. It was the low point of a half full of low points.
For all the talk about the re-stocked, loaded roster, the Florida Gators have a bunch of second-team players who don't need to be out there. This team had better stay healthy, and the fact the tough games are spaced out with less difficult ones might be the most important thing the Gators can count on. The lack of discipline and focus of the reserves was disappointing, I'm sure to the players and coaches. It was just embarrassing for everyone else.
The starters dominated this game as I thought they would. In fact, the 49-7 halftime score was awfully close to my 45-9 predicted final. Leak was outstanding as was the offensive line and Jemalle Cornelius. The defense dominated Kentucky and got three takeaways before intermission.
Urban Meyer went to his reserves too early. I have always believed you come out of the locker room with the starters, to set the tone for the rest of the game. If the offense scores, they're done. If the defense gets the ball back, ditto. You can bet the next time the Florida Gators have a huge halftime lead --- and it will happen before the year is out --- count on the starters at least getting the second half underway and perhaps staying out there until the lead has been extended.
All in all it's hard to remember that first half after the way the last 30 minutes were played. But for two quarters this was a great football team and when their motor runs all the time, they can beat anyone they play.