The Florida Gators have given the college football world a lot to think about over the past two weeks, but it’s time for Billy Napier and Co. to turn the page and focus on Kentucky as a Week 5 SEC road matchup looms.
“This is a big week,” Napier said to open his Monday press conference. “Obviously, Kentucky has a really good football team. We’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Stoops and the program that he’s built there, the consistency in which they play and the brand of football that they play.”
Napier failed to beat any of Florida’s rivals in his first season as head coach, but the upset win over Tennessee broke that streak. Kentucky has seen a recent string of success against Florida after being dominated for more than three decades.
The Wildcats will enjoy a home-field advantage on Saturday, but Napier believes his group is up to the challenge.
“It’s a tough place to go play. We’ve got to go up there and play at 12 noon. Our players are well aware of the program Kentucky has. They’ve beaten us two years in a row, and I do think that there are challenges that come with going and playing on the road in this league. Certainly, Kentucky is one of those.”
Napier said that the energy in the locker room was good following the win, even if the team didn’t play up to the lofty standards set by the coaching staff. He noted that a sloppy win can often benefit a team more than a blowout win.
Florida’s inability to finish on third down and in the red zone on Saturday would be a death sentence against Kentucky. They’re going to be tough to get yards against, and they’re going to hit hard. There’s no need to make it easier on them.
“That’s one of the reasons why they’ve been able to be very consistent as a program and as a team, is because they play really good defense,” he said. “They’ve got an identity. They understand who they are and how they play. It’s a veteran group… they play well at all levels of the defense, in my opinion.”
Kentucky will be ready for Florida’s rushing attack, but the Charlotte game was a bit of a breakout party for Graham Mertz and Ricky Pearsall. The two connected on a pair of deep plays, including the catch many are calling the best of the year.
Napier is divulging too much information leading up to Saturday, but a few more deep shots might be in the works.
“You’ve got to create explosive (plays) to win,” he said. “We know that you have to take care of the ball, get takeaways, win the explosive battle, win the rush battle and try to make a game-changing play every week on special teams…
“In our league, rushing the ball consistently can be challenging at times, depending on who you are playing, so you’re going to have to create some explosives in the throw game.”