Florida stumbled in a 27-16 loss to the Kentucky on Saturday. The loss brought the Gators back down to Earth after a strong start to the season last week and revealed where this team really is at the start of SEC play, and it’s not a good place.
1. The offensive line hasn’t improved
Florida’s offensive line couldn’t get a push against Charleston Southern last week, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when it made Kentucky look like an All-American defense this week. But this game exposed the ugly truth that a very experienced line still did not take any steps from 2017 to 2018, much less Week 1 to Week 2.
The Gators arguably have one of the deepest, most talented backfields in the SEC, but it will never get a chance to do real damage when there is not help up front.
Florida is not built to live or die on its passing offense. That’s where things currently stand as the highly touted Jordan Scarlett finished with just 25 yards, Malik Davis had only 15 and Lamical Perine got 34 (mostly coming on a pair of big runs in the fourth quarter), but it was too little, too late by the time he started making plays.
The players who were supposed to carry the offense this season only ran the ball four more times than Feleipe Franks, who finished as the leading rusher.
It even seemed like Florida was forced to adjust its play calling due to the horrible showing from the offensive line.
The fact of the matter is, the Gators don’t have a lot of talent up front and things will only get worse as the SEC season moves forward and they have to go up against much stronger defenses. Something has to change, and it has to change quickly.
2. Grantham’s defense MIA
Kentucky running back Benny Snell said he was the best in the country earlier this week, and Florida did nothing to disprove that Saturday night.
He had his way with the Gators all game long. Everyone in the stadium knew the Wildcats were going to run the ball, but the defense still had no answer and made no adjustments to find the answer.
Snell put up 175 yards on 27 carries, while quarterback Terry Wilson ran it down Florida’s throat behind him with 105 yards on 10 rushes for an average of 10.5 yards per carry.
The defensive line was atrocious as Kentucky’s offensive line pushed the Gators around all night. T.J. Slaton and Elijah Conliffe did not live up to the offseason hype inside in any way, shape or form.
On top of that, the tackling effort was sickening. Snell, Wilson and just about any other Kentucky player who touched the ball slipped countless tackles throughout the game.
That was the root of so many extended Kentucky drives. The Wildcats were 9-for-13 on third down plays—an area this defense was supposed to shine.
There is no excuse for the lack of effort the Gators put on the field. With continued showings like that, this defense could very well go down as one of the worst Florida has fielded in a very long time.
3. Franks fooled us
Franks looked like a new player last week against a defense that never stood a chance. But the true colors always come out.
To be fair, he did not play horribly in the first half and one could argue he was the only reason the Gators were still in the game at that point. He made the most of what he had to work with.
The same thing couldn’t be said in the second half.
Franks stared down receivers, missed wide open receivers and didn’t take advantage of opportunities to run the ball himself.
The defense came up with a stop to start the fourth quarter, and with Florida down two scores, it felt like the next possession would decide the game. The next possession embodied the remainder of the game as Davis picked up a first down, but Franks threw an interception a play later, giving Josh Hammond no opportunity to make the catch.
Franks led the Gators down the field for 99 yards on a 15-play touchdown drive the next possession, but not without trying to give the Wildcats the ball back multiple times. A couple throws hit Kentucky’s defenders right in the hands, but they couldn’t come up with it for the final dagger.
It wouldn’t matter, because that dagger came when Franks took a sack and fumbled in the process as he tried for a Hail Mary with 9 seconds remaining.
Kentucky uncovered a lot of Florida’s dirty laundry, including the realization that Franks is not ready to be a good starting quarterback in the SEC. He may have taken baby steps since last season, but what’s between the ears is still holding him back.