It wasn’t pretty at all but the Florida Gators found a way to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday in a game that was full of up and downs for the Gators.
The biggest down was when Florida was in the redzone with a chance to go up 21-3 and Will Grier threw an interception in the back of the endzone, but I’m not upset with the play call at all. The play call was a good one and the read was the right one, but Grier needed to throw the ball to the pylon and higher to where either tight end Jake McGee caught it or nobody did.
With that interception the game shifted in Kentucky’s favor and that was especially true when Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles took off on a long run, but it was a play that should’ve never happened. The referees clearly missed a holding call when Vernon Hargreaves was thrown to the ground, but they didn’t call it and Kentucky kicked a field goal.
The referees are an excuse but let me go back to Grier and his performance, as a whole, on Saturday night — his first SEC start and first road start of his career.
A quick look at the numbers show that Grier was 13-22 for 125 yards passing and 61 yards rushing, but the biggest thing for me was that Grier wasn’t his normal self in the pocket on Saturday.
The last two games Grier has sat in the pocket until the last second as he looked down the field, but on Saturday night it was almost a one read and run type of offense for Grier. That’s something that I think offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and head coach Jim McElwain will get with him about this coming week.
Grier did a lot of good things with his feet and made some really good throws, including one to Brandon Powell on a slant that was dropped, and had Powell caught it, he was either getting a first down or possibly a touchdown.
All in all it was game that Grier will learn from and he will be able to look at game film this coming week and evaluate himself and the coaching staff will be able to evaluate the offense with him.
Another big key for Grier is his ability to operate a really good two-minute drive late in the half. The drive that Grier led before halftime he looked like a field general.This is a big reason that I see Grier being the guy that Mac is comfortable with as his quarterback.
Grier will get the blame for the offense playing poorly on Saturday night but that blame has to go to the offensive line, as this was the worst performance of the year for the group.
This was an offensive line that everyone thought was going to be below average, but letting guys run free is something that can not happen at all. To break things down I think the biggest issues are coming at right guard and right tackle for Florida.
Antonio Riles at guard and either Fred Johnson or Mason Halter are mainly playing the right side of the line and all three guys were straight whipped on Saturday night.
Florida needs to find a way to get Martez Ivey involved on the offensive line and either slide Halter inside or find someone to man the right guard position because the last two games have been a disaster for Riles.
Until the offensive line improves where Florida is able to get a decent running game involved, the Gators will struggle in the passing game where teams are able to pin their ears back and rush Grier.
One thing that Mac did to help the offensive line was the toss play. I like that play and Florida needs to continue that play, plus work in the reverse and sweeps with the receivers to help the offensive line.
Enough about the offense lets move to the defensive side of the ball, the side of the ball that won the Florida Gators the football game and it all started with the defensive line.
Florida Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph had his guys playing hard all night long and the defensive line was led by senior Jonathan Bullard and RUSH end Alex McCalister, who both had incredible nights.
Freshman CeCe Jefferson had a half of a sack but he was a guy that was in the Wildcats’ backfield all night long and Gators’ fan are just now seeing what Jefferson can do as a football player.
Another key player on the night was defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, who was repeatedly pushing the line back three to five yards to allow his teammates to make plays in the backfield. Brantley had a night that won’t show on the stat sheet but it will show in the film room.
All of that pressure allowed the Gators’ secondary to have a good night for the most part. There were not nearly as many blown coverages as there were in the past few weeks and that was due in large part to Keanu Neal and Vernon Hargreaves being back on the field.
One thing that is concerning for the secondary — and really the entire defense — were the constant missed tackles that allowed Kentucky to get more yards then they should, but that’s something that is correctable.
Now that I’ve gone through both sides of the ball, let me move on to where I think this football team is after three games.
I think this is a team that has shown some improvement on offense and is further along than the scoreboard or the stat sheets show. For instance, on Saturday night, the Gators missed a field goal and had an interception in the redzone that took points off the scoreboard and would’ve made the game a lot easier on everyone.
If Florida can figure out a way to get any kind of protection on offense then you will see the passing game improve because, when Grier has time, he has shown that he can throw the ball and get the passing game moving.
Defensively this is still a good unit that loaded with play makers and the Florida Gators rely on them to keep them in football games over the next month or so as the offensive continues to get better.
Florida is still struggling in the penalty department and had 10 more on Saturday night. That’s something that McElwain and company must clean up because several of them were costly on Saturday night and they will be costly in the coming games.
Looking forward the Gators have a tough game at home against Tennessee next Saturday afternoon and Florida will have to figure out a way to block a good front seven of the Volunteers.
But that is next week so Gators fan enjoy the win on Saturday night and the 29-game winning streak against the Wildcats.