The Florida Gators (2-0) absolutely whooped the Kentucky Wildcats (0-2) yesterday afternoon with a 45-7 thrashing in The Swamp. With yesterday's victory, the Gators have now beaten the Wildcats in 30 consecutive years!
The offense was incredible! Quarterback Luke Del Rio was hitting long passes, his offensive line was giving him all the time in the world to throw, and his receivers were catching nearly everything. Del Rio picked apart Kentucky's secondary as he torched the Cats for 320 yards and four touchdowns while completing 19 of 32 passing attempts.
Del Rio did throw his first career interception, but it was not his fault as the ball bounced off of Brandon Powell's hands into those of Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity's. In regards to pocket awareness, Del Rio had all the time in the world to throw. He did a great job making his reads and not taking sacks as the Kentucky defense never once got to him.
On the ground, Coach McElwain made good use of Gator newcomers Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson. Perine, a true freshman, led all Florida rushers with 105 yards on 17 carries and caught his first collegiate touchdown pass on a 28-yard reception in the third quarter. His longest run was 36 yards.
Thompson, a JUCO transfer, registered the second most rushing attempts with 15 carries for 59 yards and his first D-1 touchdown. Behind Thompson, the two Jordans in Cronkrite (nine for 43 yards) and Scarlett (five for 29 yards) combined for 14 carries and 72 rushing yards with Scarlett finding the end zone in the middle of the third quarter.
In the receiving corps, Antonio Callaway was on a new level as the sophomore wideout hauled in five receptions and tallied 129 yards with one touchdown. His longest catch was a 79-yard touchdown strike from Del Rio in the last minute of the first quarter.
Joining Callaway, junior Brandon Powell had four receptions for 48 yards in the contest and scored his touchdown on a post route with less than 20 seconds left in the first half.
True freshman Freddie Swain accounted for the third receiving touchdown of the day as his only catch was a 26-yard reception on a beautifully run post corner route. This would be his first career collegiate touchdown reception. The final touchdown reception, as I mentioned earlier, went to Lamical Perine.
I could not have been more proud of this Gator offensive unit. They racked up 564 total yards of offense, converted 14 of 20 third downs, turned the ball over just once, and punted just one time the whole game!
The only moment offensively that concerned me was when Del Rio appeared to fumble on the opening drive and Kentucky ran it back for a touchdown. After review though, it was revealed to be a forward pass and Florida would end the drive with a missed field goal.
Defensively, the Gators didn't give Kentucky any breathing room whatsoever. Geoff Collins' unit allowed just 149 yards of offense from the Wildcats, forced four turnovers, and held them to three total pass completions in 14 attempts! Kentucky was only able to score in the last five minutes of the game when loudmouth running back Jojo Kemp found his way into the end zone on third and goal.
Florida's defensive line and linebacking core terrorized Kentucky's QB's as they recorded five sacks in the game. Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit led the way as he notched two sacks and was the Gators' second leading tackler with five on the day.
In front of Sherit in tackles was linebacker Alex Anzalone, who recorded six in the conteste and accounted for 1.5 sacks as well. Rounding out the list with their first career sacks were linebacker Kylan Johnson and defensive lineman Jachai Polite.
Johnson, a redshirt freshman, had 0.5 of a sack and would finish the game with three tackles. Polite, a true freshman, had one sack that served as his only tackle of the day while also forcing a fumble that Taven Bryan recovered midway through the third quarter.
In the Gator secondary, the defensive backs feasted as they picked off Kentucky three times! Cornerback Quincy Wilson struck first. Near the end of the first quarter, he snagged a one-handed interception on a long ball down the sideline to set up the Gators' first scoring drive. Next it was Jalen Tabor's turn.
With under five minutes to go in the second quarter, the best cornerback in the country picked off a Kentucky screen pass after dropping an interception on the prior play. This as well would set up a Gator touchdown.
Reeling in the third and final interception of the game, safety Marcus Maye picked off a crossing route at the start of the third quarter. Continuing the trend, this turnover also paved the way for a Gator touchdown.
The secondary embodied the very epitome of lockdown as Kentucky ran the ball 34 times compared to just 13 passing attempts. After two years of single digit victories over the Cats (one which needed triple overtime), it was really great to see the Gators get out there and end this game by the half.
Before my final analysis, let me talk about special teams real quick.
Eddy Pineiro showed that he was human today as he went 1-3 on his field goal attempts, missing from 42 and 48 yards out. However, the one he did make was a 54-yarder that is hands down the longest kick I have seen a UF kicker make in The Swamp!
Despite an off-day, Eddy was still money as he converted all six of his extra point attempts. Of his eight kickoffs, five of them were touchbacks with just one going out of bounds. With the whole crowd chanting "Eddy, Eddy, Eddy" every time he comes onto the field, it's quite obvious that he has become a fan favorite among the Floria Faithful.
As for the GOAT in punter Johnny Townsend, he honestly did not even need to show up to the game today. Townsend saw action just once as he entered the game to punt with less than 12 minutes in the fourth quarter. As usual though, he killed it as he booted the ball 54 yards for a touchback.
In the return game, Antonio Callaway and Freddie Swain both fielded punt and kick return duties. Callaway returned two punts for a total of three yards while Swain returned one punt for a yard. Each also had a kick return with Callaway tallying 21 yards and Swain accumulating 11 yards.
30 straight years of victory has to feel great no matter who your opponent is. The fact that Gator football, who has seen some historically bad coaches in Ron Zook and Will Muschamp, was still able to keep their winning streak alive against Kentucky for three decades is remarkable.
The offense took huge strides from last week as the Gators did whatever they wanted to Kentucky's defense. The passing game remained a huge part of the offensive attack yesterday and was executed nearly flawlessly by Luke Del Rio.
The defense remained stout and did a fantastic job creating turnovers to set up good scoring opportunities for Del Rio and company. Even when the defense began on their own 35-yard line with a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, they held their ground and forced a missed field goal from the Wildcats.
Florida, now ranked #23 in the latest AP poll, will look to ride some serious momentum as they host the North Texas Mean Green (1-1) in the final home game of September. The Mean Green are coming off a 41-20 win over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (0-1) and should pose no threat to the Gators next Saturday.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. It can be seen on ESPNU and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.
As for Kentucky (0-2), they remain winless and head back to Lexington wondering if beating Florida is actually an attainable task. They should be able to notch their first victory of 2016 as they host the New Mexico State Aggies (1-1). Kickoff is at 4 p.m. and it can be seen on the SEC Network.
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com