So, what it was Kentucky
Who cares the last time the Wildcats won in Gainesville Jimmy Carter was in office?
Do you think it matters the Gators best offensive performance under Jim McElwain came against a program they’ve won 30 in a row against?
The last time “Big Blue” beat Florida, “Top Gun” was a box office hit. “There’s two O’s in Goose, boys” and now there are two O’s in the Gators record against the Wildcats over that stretch, as in 30-0. (“I feel the need. The need Gator skill position speed.”)
What stood out wasn’t the 45-7 beat down, nor Luke Del Rio’s 320 yards passing, nor Lamical Perine’s 105 yards rushing. What captured my attention was the offenses ability to take turnovers and convert them in to points. All four Wildcat turnovers resulted in touchdowns on Florida’s next offensive possession.
The Gators’ secondary picked off Drew Barker three times. Quincy Wilson made an incredible one handed interception. Jalen “Teez” Tabor, wasn’t about to be out down, snuffing out a screen pass for pick. Overall Kentucky finished with as many pass completions (3/14) as the Gators had interceptions.
A week ago against UMass, Gator fans were complaining about the weak right side of the offensive line. Hard to tell if that was solidified in a week, or it was the weak Kentucky defensive line pressure. But what stood out was the 244 yards rushing and the push up the gut he offensive line provided. Mark Thompson started strong running between the tackles, then Perine took over punishing his way in to the secondary.
Del Rio’s 320 yards passing gave the Gator Nation with a quarterback performance unseen at the Swamp since Chris Leak in 2004. Del Rio had 19 completions to 9 different receivers. His four touchdown throws were the most since Will Grier last season against Ole Miss.
Alex Anzalone played possessed. The senior linebacker collected one and half sacks and a handful of tackles. Jordan Sherit had a fire lit under him after McElwain chewed the redshirt-junior out for a penalty just before the half. It worked as Sherit finished with two sacks.
Eddy Pineiro was not worth the “Eddy, Eddy, Eddy” cheers echoing around the stadium. He did hit a 53-yard field goal, which would’ve been unfathomable in the years prior, but he was 1 of 3 in field goal opportunities. (Side note: Pineiro did ask me for the video I posted on Twitter of Thompson shining his cleats following the 53-yard field goal). Still all the Martin Gramatica antics needs to equate to “automatica” for Pineiro.
Del Rio’s interception didn’t sit well with McElwain. Maybe it was the head coach trying to keep whip cracking for the rest of the season. But McElwain got irritated in the postgame press conference when asked about Del Rio’s performance. McElwain made it a point to say Del Rio blew the curl route throw to C.J. Worton “That interception is still haunting me because it was exactly the way we drew it up against the right defense.”
Antonio Callaway suffered a quad injury. McElwain didn’t elude to the severity of the injury or how long his biggest weapon could be out. Callaway’s five receptions for 129 yards proved Del Rio’s built a comfortabilty with the sophomore.
It was a dominating Gators’ performance against a SEC team (Can’t call them a rival when Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida in 30 games). The offense was explosive and punishing at times.
The defense continues to turn the tides of a game. McEwlain should thank his lucky stars Muschamp recruited heavily on that side of the ball.
Next week shouldn’t be a test against North Texas, but will serve as the last tune up before the heart of the SEC schedule or the “Highway to the Danger Zone.”
Gators dramatic comeback Saturday at Kentucky was “mixed bag”
Life is complicated. College football is part of life. A very complicated reality greets the Florida Gators, as they head home to Gainesville.
They won a game. They lost their starting quarterback.
They showed they could fight when everything was going against them. They did not show that they are anywhere close to the Georgia Bulldogs, or that they are ready to be a nasty, imposing, overwhelmingly strong team which can go 11-1 in a regular season and feel it left something on the table.
There is a lot to like, and a lot to hate, about the Gators’ situation.
Let’s start with the quarterback situation. Feleipe Franks suffered an ugly leg injury on Saturday night. I won’t play a doctor on Twitter or here in print, so instead of making a guess about his situation, I will simply tell you to stay tuned to Florida Football Insiders for more on his situation as fresh information becomes available.
Franks was supposed to be the guy who led Florida to a higher plateau in 2019, but if he is out, the Gators have to start fresh.
The really good news is that Kyle Trask came off the bench in the fourth quarter and directed two terrific drives as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Trask could not have handled his situation any better.
Backups are told to be ready. Trask was supremely ready. He seized his opportunity. He immediately won over the locker room and his teammates. The offense flowed rhythmically when Trask was in the game. Dan Mullen found plays Trask could execute.
Trask will obviously need to develop if he is to meet the challenges which face him in the weeks ahead. That said, if he could perform under pressure against Kentucky – on the road, at night, trailing in the fourth quarter – it becomes possible to envision a world in which he handles other high-stress situations with poise and composure.
Is Trask ready for the entirely different challenge of being the starter for the rest of the season? Is he talented enough to handle 60-minute wars against Auburn and Georgia and others? We will have to wait to find out, and yes, skepticism is merited before improving the Gators’ odds of challenging Georgia for the SEC East title
I wouldn’t count on Trask being the answer to Florida’s problems – most Gator fans can acknowledge that. Yet, there’s a difference between an unlikely scenario and an absurd one. Trask flourishing for the rest of the season is unlikely… but against Kentucky, he refuted the notion that such a scenario would be absurd. Florida might have gained more than it honestly expected from Trask.
Beyond the quarterback situation, Florida’s mixed bag against Kentucky was manifested in the fact that the Gators continued to make a lot of inexcusable mistakes… and yet won an SEC road game.
The secondary remains inconsistent. The defense did not impose its will on the opposition, on a night when Kentucky played a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith. Too many untimely penalties are still part of this team’s identity.
This is frustrating… but it also shows that if the Gators can eve clean up their act, their ceiling could be higher than it currently is. No, this does not look like a team which will ever be dominant, but with a 3-0 record in a weak SEC East, the Gators are still in very good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. They might not blow people out, but they could win a bunch of hard-fought slugfests akin to this one.
Fans rightly want Florida to challenge Georgia. That’s where this season seems likely to fall short of its highest aspirations. Yet, the Gators’ win over Kentucky gives them reason to think that they can return to a high-profile bowl game.
This program is not ready to take the next step up the ladder, to the Georgia-LSU tier just below Alabama in the SEC. It also does not appear ready to stumble and lose ground relative to 2018.
Florida could be in a much better situation right now. It could also be in a far worse situation.
That is what a mixed bag looks like.
Gators lose QB Feleipe Franks to horrific leg injury
On a night in Lexington, Kentucky, when the Gators top 10 hopes were coming unraveled, their starting quarterback and leader of their offense went down with a horrible leg injury in a third quarter. And, Feleipe Franks is likely done for the season.
On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and being bent backwards. Even though replays weren’t shown, it was clear he had suffered a dislocated right ankle injury.
So bad was the injury, that trainers who came to assist Franks on the turf at Commonwealth Stadium immediately put an air cast on his right leg. Then he was eventually carted off to the locker room after nearly the entire Gator team had surrounded him and wished him well.
— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) September 15, 2019
All signs pointing to the magnitude of the injury to being severe.
Frank’s has been a “lightning rod of criticism” throughout his Florida career, but did silence a lot of those critics with his play down the stretch of last season. That included a late season comeback win over South Carolina, playing well in the rivalry victory over Florida State, and then, following that up with a good performance in the easy victory in the Peach Bowl over Michigan.
Still coach Dan Mullen has stuck by he junior signal-caller.
We wrote about Franks and the Gators being sloppy in the opening game of the year with Miami. However, some of that could be chalked up to Miami’s aggressive defense and it being a first game.
However, Franks and the offense struggled much of the first three quarters of Saturday night’s SEC opener at Kentucky. At the time he left with an injury he was an efficient 12-17 for 174 yards with a TD pass and 1 INT. Still, they had only put one touchdown on the board while trailing 21 – 10.
Frank’s was replaced by redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who was seeing his first significant action of his Florida career, especially trailing by double figures in a hostile SEC road environment.