Florida football took one on the chin Saturday night against the Kentucky Wildcats, dropping its SEC opener at home, 26-16. Anthony Richardson was simply in a funk the entire game, tossing a pair of picks that nullified a great effort on defense, while the running game came to a crashing halt in the second half.
Additionally, Billy Napier’s playcalling was rather questionable at times including two failed fourth-down conversions in his own territory that ultimately sealed the Gators’ fate on that wet night in the Swamp. The long and the short of it is that the Orange and Blue did not look nearly as well-tuned as it did against the Utah Utes in Week 1.
Of course, SEC competition is always going to be a different beast from out west. Saturday night’s results exemplified that to a t.
The Gators Wire staff assembled shortly after the game to give their immediate takes in a good, bad and ugly format. Take a look below at each respective member’s immediate reaction to Florida’s tough loss in the Swamp.
Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor
AP Photo/John Raoux
GOOD: Florida’s defense did a strong job stifling the Wildcats’ run game, holding them for only two yards in the first half, and despite some padding added at the end, still held UK to well under 100 yards. The corps also did a great job disrupting Levis and locking down the backfield, sacking him three times along with a pair of other tackles for losses to go with seven quarterback hurries.
BAD: Florida’s running game was actually humming along in the first half, finishing with 104 yards on 17 attempts. However, they added just 32 yards in the second half and Anthony Richardson — typically fleet of foot — gained just four yards on six tries.
UGLY: Speaking of Richardson, both of his interceptions were deep daggers in the Gators’ heart and his inability to make routine plays doomed this team. His 14-for-34 performance throwing resulted in just 143 yards and no touchdowns, along with those two picks. He was clearly off from the get-go and was unable to make adjustments throughout the game, suggesting that he still has a bit of maturing to do.
David Rosenberg - Assistant Editor
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
GOOD: [autotag]Gervon Dexter[/autotag]. The third-year defensive lineman impressed early after a fairly quiet first week of the season. The defensive line as a whole stepped up, but Dexter looked like every bit of the leader he’s supposed to be for the team. He racked up a sack, an interception and several tackles. All things considered, the defense held up well, and Florida should’ve been able to run away with things in the first half with some competent quarterback play.
BAD: Going for it twice on fourth and whatever in your own territory with time left to spare just seemed liked bad football. When Napier played for the win against Utah, it was bold and paid off. This time around, Gator Nation felt what it was like to be on the wrong of side a risky bet. For all the times that Napier has said his team has to give itself a chance to win, he didn’t do a very good job of that against Kentucky.
UGLY: Hopefully, that’s the worst we see from Anthony Richardson this season. He couldn’t hit open receivers and fully took the blame for the loss after the game. This probably isn’t his “promise you” moment, but something needs to click for Richardson to grow into that first-round quarterback so many still think he is.
Pat Dooley - Staff Writer
AP Photo/John Raoux
Florida’s 26-16 loss to Kentucky changed the dynamics of Florida’s September. A lot of people would have been happy with a 1-1 record after the first two games, but the win over Utah had fans living in a different world.
GOOD: Florida’s defense did a good job throughout the game, even with [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag] out late in the game. “You could see an improvement on defense,” Billy Napier said. Kentucky hit some plays, but only managed only 272 yards against a defense that was gutted in the second half last week. The stats are a little skewed because of the 39-yard loss on an errant punt snap, but the defense was not the reason the Gators lost this game.
BAD: Nobody wants to get down on Florida’s quarterback but he did not have a great game. The two interceptions were totally the difference in the game. Anthony Richardson was everything he was not in the opener, a turnover machine who had no chance to run the ball.
UGLY: Florida had 12 first downs in the game. I repeat, 12. Florida lost last year to Kentucky because of a blocked punt and a ton of penalties. The Gators lost this game because of a lack of execution on offense and huge mistakes.
Sergio De La Espriella - Staff Writer
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
GOOD: The defensive. Full stop. I was very happy with the way the line was able to get to Will Levis seemingly at will. For context: the Gators didn’t record a sack in their season opener against Utah. Against Kentucky? They had three sacks in the first quarter. In games like this, it’s important to keep perspective with the defense and see how much this unit has improved since [autotag]Patrick Toney[/autotag] took over.
BAD: The offense as a whole. What was an incredible performance in Week 1 seemed to collapse in Week 2. Anthony Richardson came back to earth and looked like a player who was making his 3rd career start. It looked like once the Kentucky defense (who deserve a ton of credit, by the way) set the tone, the Gators had no answer. Richardson will be under the microscope this week, and deservedly so. Personally, I think these moments are important to Richardson’s development. We know the ceiling is there. We’ll see next week how he responds to the worst outing of his career.
UGLY: I’m gonna need someone to explain to me why Billy Napier thought it was a good idea to go for it on 4th down twice in the 4th quarter when the ball was on the Florida side of the field. Why did Napier hold his three timeouts until the Wildcats were inside the 10 with 90 seconds left in the game?
A PSA to future opponents: the Gators will run a screen pass on second down and a read option on third down. Could it be that Napier doesn’t feel like he has the personnel to run his entire playbook? Maybe. Regardless, the coaching decisions down the stretch were questionable, to say the least. Here’s to hoping this was just a bump in the road.
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