The adjustments made by the Florida defensive coaching staff proved to be the difference in the Gators 26-7 victory over division rival Kentucky. The Wildcats managed just 54 yards of total offense and most of all zero points in the second half.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips designed a solid game plan that included the use of quick screens, slip screens, and an occasional draw play that allowed quarterback Andre’ Woodson to complete 14 of 20 passes for 135 yards and a score.
However, the Gators made adjustments at the half, which included coming out with fire in their bellies. The Florida front seven got tremendous pressure on Woodson, who was six times in the game. The Gators read and reacted every time the Wildcats set up for the screens that had been so successful in the first half. Florida forced the Wildcats to punt on every possession after the intermission, including a trio of consecutive three and outs.
Meyer. Mattison, and Strong have done an outstanding job of adjusting at the half and during the course of a game. And like it or not- that has not always been the case at Florida in recent years.
An extremely poised Woodson looked a little unglued at times as the heat from the Florida defensive front hurried him. Woodson threw many passes with an orange helmet and blue jersey in his face. By the midway point of the third quarter, there was really little fear that the Florida defense wouldn’t take control.
Offensively, the game more closely resembled a ride on the Busch Gardens thrill ride SheiKra- full of ups and downs.
The Gators double reverse pitch pass provided just as big a charge as the Busch Gardens thrill ride. The infusion provided by reserve quarterback Tim Tebow was equally impressive.
It was not the best of performances by senior quarterback Chris Leak, who finished 15 of 26 for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It seemed early that there were a few key plays in the first half where he missed the open man underneath and generally held the ball too long.
Sure, the Gators rocked the Kentucky defense for 514 total yards of offense. But, they lacked the consistency needed to get everything into a flow. It was once again the stubborn Gators defense which provided the both the consistency and spark.
* The Gators jumped on the Wildcats early with a double reverse pass. It was a thing of beauty and one that would seemingly serve to inspire plenty of emotion in both the team and fans throughout “The Swamp”. However, the play ended up being the only offensive octane generated in the first half.
* The numerous mental mistakes must be eliminated. After Tim Tebow entered the game in the third quarter and rush three consecutive times for a total of 62 yards to the UK six yard line- the Florida drive yielded absolutely nothing. This is especially important because for the second consecutive game, Florida (leading 19-7) had the opportunity to pull away and failed to do so.
* Speaking of mental mistakes. Florida has to cut down on the penalties before that too- gets them in trouble against a fast approaching Southeastern Conference schedule. The Gators once again finished in double digit figures.
* The quarterback rotation of Leak and Tebow will continue to provide many sleepless hours for defensive coordinators. Tebow has been unstoppable when running the football. His 7.2 yard average is eye-popping.
* After the season opener against Southern Miss, Meyer asked for more big plays. He received them once again. However, he has yet to get the consistency that he desires
* Alabama lost in large part today because of missed field goals and a botched PAT after the score. With a brutal consecutive conference schedule that includes the Crimson Tide, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia there had better be improvement in Florida’s kicking game.
* Despite the absence of Marcus Thomas, the Florida defense once again held an opponent to less than two yards per carry. When you have the ability move experienced players like Ray McDonald and Joe Cohen up or down on the line- life is good. McDonald finished with five tackles, including a pair of sacks. Well done.
* A game ball has to go to Eric Wilbur who ripped a 58 yard punt and followed with a 46 yarder. Ditto for the Florida return team, who bottled up Keenan Burton. While were at it, let’s give one to Burton himself for attempting to return a ball from the two yard line.
* Florida’s offensive line did a pretty darned good job. They gave Leak and Tebow plenty of time with the rolling pocket and blew open holes for the backs, continuing their blocks downfield. Admittedly, the ‘Cats didn’t blitz often, nor did they attempt any other ways to get pressure on Leak, but they competed and were effective in slowing down the Florida offense as well. The Gators gave up one sack when defensive tackle Myron Pryor ran an inside/out stunt and quickly gobbled up Leak. The other when Leak missed the receiver underneath on a fourth and two.
* The Gators have effectively shut down every feature back they have faced. The Wildcats averaged just 1.8 yards per carry. Florida will face its’ biggest test in Kenneth Darby of Alabama next weekend.
Last season, the Crimson Tide ran for 121 yards on the day, with Darby carving out an impressive 6.7 yards per carry. The blistering 31-3 defeat should perfectly serve as motivation for the hungry Florida football team.