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It Was Not Gator Football Saturday In Lexington

The Florida Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats for the third consecutive year by a score of 33-14. Nothing seemed to go right for the Gators from the get-go, as Kentucky's running game was on fire from the first snap. This game was the opposite of what I expected, not by Kentucky winning but by how things went down on the defensive side of the ball for the Gators. For the four games for Florida, defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong either didn't use the same approach, or the Gator defense just got exposed against Kentucky. Kentucky always has a very good offensive line and a consistent running game, but today, running back Ray Davis had his best performance as a Wildcat as he rushed for a career-high 280 yards and four touchdowns.

The Gator offense on the day struggled as Graham Mertz was 25-30, 244 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Montrelle Johnson led the Gators in rushing for ten carries for 42 yards, and Ricky Pearsall led the Gators in receiving for three receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown. Trevor Etienne did have eleven carries than Montrelle Johnson for 29 yards, and Kaheil Jackson and Andy Jean would also have big days in receptions. Hayden Hanson would score his first Gator touchdown on a pass from Graham Mertz, but that's as close as the Gators would get.

It may have been a noon game, but that did not stop the loud crowd noise at Kroger Field, as the Gator offense struggled to communicate. Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops called it, and he knew it was going to be loud like an SEC stadium always should be. Numerous false start penalties were called, including a controversial one that should have been an offsides penalty on Kentucky. Head of SEC Officiating Matt Austin will at least review the penalty and know that it was a blown call because no one on Florida moved, and Kentucky jumped offsides.

Florida's special teams also had a miscue early in the game when Kentucky was up 10-0, which was inexcusable. The Gators were going to the ball after the punt return, but it was a personal foul that would give the ball back to Kentucky. These are stupid special teams mistakes that need to be cleaned up, and it has been going on since the Utah game. I don't understand why Billy Napier can have an assistant coach at every position but not hire a special teams coach. Every week, when something goes wrong at every position, he says these are correctible mistakes, but we see the same screw-ups repeatedly.

Florida's struggles on the road continue under Billy Napier, and they are now 1-7. The road schedule will get tougher this season at South Carolina, at LSU, vs. Georgia in Jacksonville and at Missouri, which are very tough games. The most winnable one is Missouri because you never know when they will fall off, but Napier needs to win a road game this season if he expects to be the Gators coach in 2024.

Billy Napier will be given a few ultimatums in the offseason, and he will be asked to let go of some coaches from Louisiana and hire an offensive coordinator. Napier sort of has an offensive coordinator in Rob Sale, or does he just have the title because, from what I have seen, Billy Napier calls the plays, and I see him with the call sheet? Most of the time, I see Rob Sale working with the offensive line and never with the call sheet, so I say he is one of his buddies from Louisiana. So that can be an issue when one of the team's biggest problems is at a position that needs attention, but you won't make a change because the coach is a friend. We had that problem with Dan Mullen when he wouldn't let go of his coaches who couldn't recruit because they were his buddies.

The Gators also could not make the big plays they had to make to get back in the game. Ricky Pearsall did all he could, but Kentucky contained other Gator playmakers, such as Trevor Etienne and Montelle Johnson, from gaining much ground. There was also no sense of urgency from the Gators on offense or defense, and it seemed that Kentucky knew where to hit Florida all day, even though Kentucky was a one-dimensional offense.

Florida will return to The Swamp to take on Vanderbilt for Homecoming next Saturday. Another team that knocked off the Gators last season, but the Commodores have not beaten the Gators in Gainesville since 2013. Vanderbilt comes into the game 2-4 and has been struggling with opponents with losses to Wake Forest, UNLV, Kentucky, and Missouri. This would be a good game for the Gators to get back on the winning side because it is Homecoming in The Swamp. Kickoff is at 4 O'clock on the SEC Network, and Florida needs to have a good week of practice to be prepared for the Commodores because if you are unprepared like they were against Kentucky, then Vanderbilt will give you a fight.

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