Instant Analysis: Special teams, Pitts vault Gators past pesky Wildcats

Nov 28, 2020 | 0 comments

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Few series in college football have been as entertaining in recent years as Florida-Kentucky. In 2014, the Gators survived at home in triple-overtime. In 2017, it took Kentucky leaving two receivers completely uncovered for Florida to escape Lexington with a win. The Wildcats stunned the Gators in the Swamp in 2018 to end their 31-game losing streak in the series. UF’s backup quarterback led an unforgettable fourth-quarter comeback to win in 2019.

This time, however, the only drama came in the first half. No. 6 Florida used a strong second half to defeat Kentucky (3-6) 34-10 inside the Swamp on Saturday afternoon.

Here is our Instant Analysis.

It Was Over When: With Kentucky leading 10-7 with a little more than a minute left in the first half, UF punter Jacob Finn uncorked a beautiful 49-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

Florida’s defense then forced a three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, the Gators lined up both Kadarius Toney and Xzavier Henderson deep as returners. Wildcats punter Max Duffy punted toward Toney down the left sideline, while Henderson faked as if the ball was coming his way on the opposite end of the field. Eight or nine Wildcats defenders fell for the fake, leaving Toney almost alone on the other side. Toney sprinted into the end zone almost untouched for a 50-yard touchdown.

Thanks to a trio of Kentucky penalties, UF scored again on its first possession of the second half, with Kyle Trask firing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Pitts to extend the lead to 21-10. Florida controlled the game from there.

He Stole the Show: In his first game since suffering a concussion and a nose injury against Georgia on Nov. 7, Pitts wasted no time in letting his presence be felt. After a successful fake punt extended Florida’s first possession, Pitts beat Kentucky’s top cornerback, Kelvin Joseph, on a post route for a 56-yard touchdown reception to give the Gators a 7-0 lead.

He added touchdowns of 2 and 7 yards in the third quarter to bring his season total to 11 touchdowns, extending his school record. He finished with five catches for 99 yards.

Oh, What A Play: Toney’s 50-yard punt return touchdown on a trick play was the first of his career and the Gators’ first since early in the 2018 season. Most significantly, it helped UF overcome a disconcerting start on both sides of the ball and build a two-score lead before UK’s first possession of the second half.

This Stat Mattered Most: In the first half, the Wildcats held the ball for 23 minutes and 23 seconds. This allowed them to minimize the number of possessions, wear down UF’s defense and keep the Gators’ passing game from finding a rhythm.

In the second half, Florida won time-of-possession, holding the ball for 20 minutes and four seconds. This allowed the Gators’ talent advantage on offense to take over and put the game away.

This Matchup Proved Key: As expected, Florida’s defensive backs shut down Kentucky’s anemic passing game, limiting Terry Wilson to just 62 yards and intercepting him twice. This made it all but impossible for the Wildcats to stage a comeback once the Gators went up by three scores in the second half.

Up Next: If Georgia beats South Carolina on Saturday night as expected, Florida (7-1) will have to wait to clinch the SEC East title until next Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The game at Tennessee (2-5) could be the regular-season finale for the Gators if the SEC decides not to make up the LSU game that was postponed in October. Kickoff time will be announced on Sunday.





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