In the Gators’ season opener against Utah, we saw some big parts of the Billy Napier plan to win executed well. Unfortunately for Florida, that did not carry over into the Week 2 contest against Kentucky.
Florida won the game against Utah by winning the “four-point play” battle. Florida also exhibited that “legendary finish” that Napier talks about. Neither of those elements showed up against the Wildcats, at least offensively.
And another element of the plan to win involves the turnover battle.
Napier wants to “own the ball” on offense and “attack the ball” on defense. Florida forced a turnover, but Anthony Richardson threw two game-changing interceptions. While not the only reason, it certainly seems that turnovers were the main reason for the loss. If you include the turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter, Florida turnovers led directly to 17 Kentucky points. In a game you lose by 10, it’s not difficult to see a correlation there.
The result was not a shocking one if you’ve watched Kentucky play defense — or read our preview on Friday.
Offensively, Florida is going to have to follow a similar plan as last week. Utah seemed content to sit back deep and make Florida slowly march down the field. This was exactly the plan Kentucky employed against Florida last season, and in general, Kentucky seems content to sit back in zone and make you move the ball in small increments. (That strategy is greatly aided by your opponent constantly self-destructing with penalties, as Florida did last fall.)
Against Utah, the Gators were able to move the ball methodically, get into “third and manageable” consistently, and keep the chains moving. That’s the key to success this week. Unfortunately, I believe that Kentucky will be better on defense than Utah.
Florida was unable to stay patient and disciplined on offense, and doomed themselves for a second straight year with self-inflicted mistakes. That’s not to take anything away from Kentucky: They were much more physical on defense than what Florida saw in Week One against Utah, and were also a lot more athletic to boot; the sum total of those two elements and a dollop of discipline was a well-coached unit that pounced on mistakes and made Florida try to beat them rather than beating themselves.
Florida was unable to do that on Saturday.
Defensively, the Gators played well. Florida gave up 4.39 yards per play — not bad in the first place, and a figure that would shrink to 3.56 YPP without the Wildcats’ 55-yard touchdown pass — and -.19 expected points added per play. The defense was particularly stout against the run, with 58% of all Kentucky runs going for two yards or less. And outside of that deep shot, one that may have been dropped, the defense was solid against the pass as well.
There was a lot of improvement from this unit from Week 1 to Week 2. Now, Kentucky was nowhere near as good as Utah on offense, but it’s good to see this group have some success.
In this week’s video, though, I wanted to focus on the Florida offense. This group was flying high after that win over Utah, led by a quarterback some were talking about as a potential top-five pick. The Kentucky defense brought them back down to earth.
There’s a lot of blame being placed at Anthony Richardson’s feet, but were the struggles in this game all his fault? Check out the video below for a closer look at play calling, play design, and the offense’s execution against Kentucky.