The streak is dead and all that’s left is the postmortem. This is one part of that analysis, using the numbers to try to figure out how things went wrong.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays.
Everyone has a different definition for what counts as an “explosive play”, but I go with runs of at least ten yards and passes of at least 20 yards.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
This is a little misleading, as three of Florida’s four explosive runs came on the 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter. The other one came on the drive before it, also in the fourth quarter. The Gators were not regularly breaking off long runs.
The Wildcats were regularly breaking off long runs, however, and they had a few longer pass plays to go with them. The only explosive pass play UF was able to muster was the completion to Jordan Scarlett when the defense lost track of him coming out of the backfield.
Poor big play defense was a defining trait of this game, considering that all three of UK’s offensive touchdowns came on explosive gains. That leads to a funny little discovery in the next section.
The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
That funny little discovery is that Kentucky didn’t run a single red zone play on the night. They scored on plays of 29, 24, and 54 yards and didn’t make it inside the UF 20 otherwise.
Anyway, Kentucky’s run success rate is a little above average and its passing success rate is right about average. UK’s offense was not operating like a hot knife through butter from an efficiency standpoint. However when slightly above-average efficiency combines with a high explosiveness rate like what happened with the Wildcats’ run game, it’s a potent mix.
Florida’s efficiency rates are below average, but the passing rate isn’t wildly so.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
I wondered if Kentucky might tighten up late in the game as the weight of breaking the streak set in, and it may have happened. The offense became comically predictable, as 13 of 15 plays on the ‘Cats final three drives were carries by Benny Snell. One of the two passes was a completion to Snell as well. Knowing what was coming helped the Florida defense some, and if I recall correctly the tackling did finally get a little better (though not fixed by any stretch) in that last quarter.
Just like last week, the Gators’ best offensive quarter was the second. The third was the worst, which I think came as an effect of Kentucky confidently marching down the field and scoring on its first drive after the break.
That really put the pressure on, and Dan Mullen began to abandon the run even as Franks started pressing. UF’s two third quarter drives consisted of a combined 13 passes and only four runs. Only one of the runs was a success, while Franks only completed four passes for three success plays.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Wilson was easily the better quarterback, and he looked vastly better in this game than he did against Central Michigan in the opener. His line against CMU was 58.8% completions for all of 4.3 yards per attempt with a passing efficiency of 71.4 and a success rate of 27.8%. Nothing in that performance suggested he’d play so well, but maybe he had some first-game jitters that he got over.
Franks wasn’t bad in the first half. He completed 58% of his throws, which isn’t great, but every connection was a success play. In the second half as the pressure mounted, he turned into 2017 Feleipe Franks: not seeing open targets and throwing too many passes high.
This is a lot of receivers to feed. I think the coaches believe Jefferson and Cleveland to be the top receivers, as they were the top two target-getters in pre-garbage time in Week 1 as well. There is no clear third receiver, and there may not be.
Now, I want to compare this:
|Benny Snell, Jr.||27||6.5||40.7%|
The Wildcats know who their best back is, and they fed him generously. The mobile Wilson got some carries as well, and Rose spelled Snell a few times.
I think Mullen and company want Scarlett to be the man at running back, but he’s often had to dodge and weave just to get anything positive thanks to poor line blocking. When he’s in and it’s not an obvious passing down, defenses key on him. The run game has been incoherent beyond that, and it’s never going to be a good sign when Franks leads the team in carries.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
Field position was about a draw. We’re still waiting for special teams to make a big difference here. One nice punt return from Swain aside, it was a non-factor in the field position game.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive where the team has a first down at the opponent’s 40 or closer or where it scores from further out than that. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the opponent’s 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Letting the Wildcats have a scoring opportunity on two thirds of their drives was bad, but the defense only allowed points on half of those opportunities. Florida also only got points on three scoring opportunities, though yes, that second half field goal was good.
Counting the blown field goal call as a made kick, the Gators got points on 80% of scoring opportunities and 100% of red zone opportunities. Those are excellent rates — they just don’t generate enough scoring and red zone opportunities yet.
A lost fumble and interception in the first half were the only reasons why this game was as close as it was towards the end, as those takeaways killed otherwise successful Kentucky drives that were both scoring opportunities.
Turnovers also killed the comeback. Franks’s interception blunted a chance to get momentum early in the fourth quarter as the Wildcat offense was seizing up, while his fumble at the end obviously put the game away for good.
One of the things that best correlates with any given college football team’s winning percentage in any given year is its winning percentage in the prior year. It’s a game with inertia. If you guess that a team will be roughly what it was in the previous season, you’ll be right more often than you’ll be wrong.
Florida did a lot of things against Kentucky that it did throughout 2017. The offensive line couldn’t get a consistent push in the run game. The defense gave up too many big plays under a DC who gives up too many big plays. The quarterback had a decent first half but turned into his old form after the Wildcats took the lead in the second half.
As much as I like to use advanced stats, I think these particular ones miss a fair amount of the story.
On offense, player usage was noticeably streaky. Six of Franks’s rushes came in the first quarter (at least two of which were scrambles on passes; a third is more ambiguous) but he didn’t run it again until the 99-yard drive in the fourth. Three of Swain’s five targets were on one drive. All of Grimes’s targets were on back-to-back drives in the third quarter. Five of Toney’s six combined targets and rushes came on only two drives. This sort of thing leads me to believe that Mullen hasn’t completely gotten a hold on what he has and is still feeling out who is best in what situation.
On defense we see the aftermath of missed tackles — high yards per carry and explosive run rates — but these numbers alone don’t tell us that it was bad tackling instead of great play design from UK.
There is more of 2017 Florida in 2018 Florida than I think many people wanted to believe. There certainly is more of it than I thought there’d be after all the offseason talk about improved strength and conditioning and practice habits.
And then, for the first time in 32 years, the breaks almost all went Kentucky’s way. A review halted a Florida touchdown in progress, after which the Gators kicked a field goal. An official ruled a made UF field goal wide. A team came out with 12 men on the field after a timeout, and, unbelievably for this series, it wasn’t the Wildcats.
Florida is simply not yet a team that can have the breaks go against it in a conference game and still come out on top.