Cats Illustrated hands out grades to Kentucky players and coaches following last night's fourth quarter collapse at Kroger Field.
The finale was tough to watch but there were plenty of strong performances to go along with some problems.
Stephen Johnson played well enough for Kentucky to win the game. He finished with 196 yards, three touchdowns and no picks on 17-25 passing. He made enough winning plays and scoring throws, and even at the end of the game he managed to put Kentucky within striking range of the game winning field goal. He was sacked four times and was not a big factor with his legs (10 carries, two yards).
The running backs also played well enough for the Cats to win. Benny Snell had 59 yards on 14 carries and helped the offense move the chains effectively. Sihiem King ran for 64 yards on five carries. Each of the two chipped in with a reception that went for more than 20 yards.
Kentucky's receivers played very well against South Carolina and their strong play continued into the game against the Gators. Garrett Johnson and Blake Bone caught touchdown passes. Three receivers had multiple receptions and Johnson is targeting the receivers more.
C.J. Conrad continues to make big plays. His two catches for 34 yards included a touchdown reception so his season numbers are looking very nice.
The snap issues became a major issue in the second half and derailed plenty of plays. Kentucky also struggled to block the Gators in passing situations (four sacks allowed). Florida finished with seven tackles for loss as well. The line did give Johnson a good pocket at times and the Cats rushed for 120 yards.
Kentucky's defensive line did not play nearly as well as it did in the first three games of the year with the Gators rushing for 5.2 yards per carry (186 yards). On 27 passing attempts UF was sacked just one time.
Kentucky's linebackers are usually going to be a strength and they were productive as one would expect. Josh Allen (8 tackles, sack, TFL), Denzil Ware (7 tackles,TFL) and Courtney Love (7 tackles, TFL) were all frequently around the ball. However sometimes the group seemed to take bad angles and they could have played the run better.
The defensive backs played well and held their own for much of the game. Safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West combined for 19 tackles (team leaders), with Edwards breaking up a pass and West picking off another. Jordan Griffin got extensive action as well.
Matt Panton was solid averaging 40 yards per punt and downing two deep in Florida territory. Charles Walker had a long return that set up a score and another quality return as well. Austin MacGinnis was 2/4 on field goals with makes from 42 and 50 yards out. Kentucky kept the Gators from long returns.
Whether you think Kentucky got too conservative in its play calling, there's no question that miscommunication and a lack of organization had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the game. Kentucky had 10 men on the field on one of Florida's scoring plays. On the other, nobody was within shouting distance of Tyrie Cleveland and that was right in front of Kentucky's sideline. These were critical mistakes that simply shouldn't happen, much less multiple times, at the SEC level.