2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - Florida at Kentucky
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Sept. 24 Florida 48 … at Kentucky 10
CFN Analysis: No one's really talking about Florida, but that could quickly change over the next few weeks. The Gators couldn't be more impressive with the defense dominating, the offense showing flash in the running game, and the special teams doing a decent job, but there's a wait and see attitude with Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn, and Georgia up next. The lines are playing well enough to win all four of those games, but the passing game could stand to be a bit more efficient. John Brantley didn't have to break a sweat, and Jeff Demps did all the heavy lifting with 157 yards and two touchdowns on ten carries. It all has to work next week to have a shot at the Tide in primetime.
Kentucky's offensive line has been awful, and against a team like Florida, that's a deathblow. The line allowed four sacks and too many plays behind the line, and while the offense put up decent numbers, the game wasn't remotely close. The defense couldn't prevent the home run, Morgan Newton and the passing game had to try to bomb away to keep up, and nothing happened. Doing all the little things right is a must, and right now, UK isn't doing any one thing particularly well except for defending the pass, and that's because everyone's spending so much time running the ball.
(AP) LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Plenty has been made about Florida's speed. Turns out the 15th-ranked Gators can score pretty quickly, too.
Florida scored three touchdowns in a 4:31 span of the first quarter, and Jeff Demps iced the game with an 84-yard touchdown run as No. 15 Florida routed Kentucky 48-10 on Saturday night for the Gators' 25th straight win in the series.
"We have that quick strike ability to flip the field and score," said Will Muschamp, who became the sixth Florida coach to start his career 4-0. "All those things are deflating to a (opposing) team."
Demps carried the ball 10 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which qualified as the sixth-longest scoring run in Florida history.
The Wildcats managed to frustrate the Gators early on in their first road trip of the season. On the first drive of the game, one scripted beforehand by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Florida went three-and-out for just the fourth time all season, and the second drive didn't prove to be much better.
But a fumble by the Wildcats provided the burst of energy Florida (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) needed. Josh Clemons lost the ball on second-and-1 at the Kentucky 45, and John Brantley hit Gerald Christian on a 45-yard touchdown pass across the middle on the next play to give the Gators a 7-0 lead with 8:10 in the first quarter.
The Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) failed to pick up a single yard on their next possession, and Demps ran off tackle for 20 yards for the Gators' next touchdown, capping a four-play drive that took just 1:23.
Kentucky picked up a first down on its next drive -- its first of the game -- but Matt Elam picked off a pass by Morgan Newton at the Kentucky 46 and returned it 17 yards to the Florida 28. Chris Rainey ran most of the rest of the way, with Trey Burton polishing it off with a 1-yard TD run to put the Gators up 21-0 with 3:39 still left in the first quarter.
Florida now has outscored the Wildcats 94-3 in the first quarters of the past four meetings.
"That's a sloppy football team," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said of his Wildcats. "I've got to get this football team to know how precious, how precious the football is. We've had very poor field position the last couple weeks, and we've given the opponents good field position, and that equals an 'L' most of the time."
Kentucky gave the ball away again in the second quarter, deep in its own territory. Jonathan Bostic hit Newton as his arm was behind his head, Newton dropped the ball and Florida's Jaye Howard grabbed it, running 2 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-3 with 11:30 left in the half.
The Wildcats scored their lone TD by making the Gators pay for a mistake of their own. Brantley headed to the locker room a few minutes before halftime after getting drilled by Danny Trevathan, the SEC's leading tackler. On his second play, backup quarterback Jeff Driskel fumbled the ball as Trevathan hit him, and Trevathan fell on the ball at the Florida 26.
Newton, who was 16 of 33 for 124 yards with two interceptions, threw a 19-yard touchdown pass two plays later to La'Rod King with 1:18 before halftime to cut the Gators' lead to 31-10.
But the Wildcats were too far in the hole at that point, and couldn't stop Florida's speedy running backs in the second half.
Demps, who won a national title in the 60-meter dash at the 2010 indoor NCAA championships, showed the speed the Gators have become known for as he raced by defenders for his long touchdown run. It was Florida's longest since Emmitt Smith's 96-yard touchdown run against Mississippi State in 1988.
"I just tried to run a little faster," Demps said. "As soon as you see the hole, you get through it. You got the lane, you take it and go score."
Demps finished with 10 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns, Rainey added 105 yards for the Gators, who finished with 405 yards rushing, and Brantley was 8 for 14 for 115 yards and one touchdown. Florida hosts No. 3 Alabama and travels to No. 2 LSU in the next two weeks.
Kentucky also couldn't do much on offense against the Football Bowl Subdivision's top run defense, picking up just 134 yards on the ground. The Gators also entered the game ranked sixth in scoring defense and seventh in total defense.
"It is definitely frustrating, and what made it the most frustrating was that it was all self-inflicted," Kentucky center Matt Smith said. "We came out fired up, and we were ready to give them what they weren't expecting. Once we had a couple of turnovers, it deflated us a little bit. It's hard to get going again once they got the momentum, especially with a team like that as good as they are and as fast as they are."
Florida (3-0) at Kentucky (2-1) Sept. 24, 7:00, ESPN/ESPN3
Here's The Deal … In 1986, Kentucky came up with a 10-3 win over Florida. 24 losses later, and in 30 out of the last 31 meetings, the Gators have owned the matchup, and it's going to take something special for thing to not hold form.
Kentucky isn't very good at playing football.
The running game is bad, the passing game is worse, and the offensive line is having a stunningly miserable season. The defense has looked fine, but that's partly because it faced Western Kentucky, Central Michigan, and Louisville in the first three weeks, and with road games at LSU and South Carolina to follow the SEC opener, the young team has to grow up and be far sharper in a big hurry.
Florida might not have dominated Tennessee offensively, but the defense has been a brick wall against the run and a double-digit win over the suddenly-dangerous Vols was probably better than it looked. Now it's time to get all the parts working and all the pieces in the right place with Alabama up next followed up by trips to LSU and Auburn. These might not be the national title-level Gators of previous seasons, but they're playing well and they're more than good enough to throw on the uniforms and win this game in a walk – if their head isn't already on Alabama.
Why Florida Might Win: The Kentucky offense isn't going anywhere.
The pass protection has been miserable and the running game has struggled, running 32 times for 35 yards in the loss to Louisville last week, while the passing game threw for 97 yards and three picks in the opener against Western Kentucky. If UK gains more than 50 yards on the ground against the nation's No. 1 run defense, consider it a shock. Florida's defensive line is fully loaded and has everything in place, and the Wildcat offensive line won't have any answers. There won't be too much of a Florida pass rush, but UK doesn't have any prayer of moving the ball on the ground.
On the other side, Florida's offensive line is doing a nice job in pass protecting. The Charlie Weis offense always seemed to have problems at Notre Dame, but over the first three games the line has allowed just one sack with John Brantley getting more than enough time to work. If the Gator offense gets time to let things develop, the big plays will come.
Why Kentucky Might Win: The defense really might be pretty good. Yes, the competition hasn't been anything special, and yes, it hasn't been tested yet by an offense with a pulse, but the linebacking corps is playing at a high level and the pass rush hasn't been too bad. It's possible that this is the best defense the Gators have faced so far, and while it's not as talented as Tennessee's, it's playing better.
Because Kentucky needs every advantage it can get, it should be stronger in the punting game. Wildcat senior Ryan Tydlacka has bailed the team out of several jams, averaging close to 45 yards per kick to make up for a stodgy offense, while Florida senior David Lerner, who wasn't needed in the opener, isn't getting much of a blast for a punting game that's netting just 33 yards per kick. The UK offense needs the best field position it can get.
What To Watch Out For: The placekicking was a problem for Florida last year. Had the Gators gotten better production, and if they had a field goal kicker they could've trusted down the stretch, they probably would've beaten Mississippi State and the would've had a shot to get by LSU. Caleb Sturgis missed most of last year with a back injury, but he's back and fantastic nailing all 12 of his field goal attempts including all four of his kicks against Tennessee from 28, 30, 46, and 42 yards out. The Florida offense isn't quite clicking on all cylinders yet, and Sturgis is a nice backup plan to get points out of decent drives.
The Wildcats need more out of their receivers. The leading returning receiver, junior La'Rod King, is trying to do his best, but he needs help. With a touchdown catch in each of the first three games, and with 14 catches for 226 yards, he's been fine, and now he needs the ball more. A 6-4, 204-pounder with decent speed, he's fluid for a player of his size, he moves extremely well and should be terrific once the quarterback play is better.
What Will Happen: The Gators will look great. They'll take the next step forward in the progression with the passing game clicking a bit better than it did against Tennessee and the defense stuffing Kentucky's running game cold. By the third quarter, it'll be time to focus on Alabama.
CFN Prediction: Florida 31 … Kentucky 14
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Florida -19.5 O/U: 43
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