Quick hits: 7 things to know as Florida Gators survive Kentucky 14-9, push streak to 29 games

By Adam Silverstein
September 19, 2015

Florida Gators football improved to 3-0 on Saturday with a hard-fought 14-9 win over the Kentucky Wildcats, escaping Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky, with a victory in a contest that looked shaky at times for the visitors.

The Gators have now won 29 consecutive games against the Wildcats (1987-present) and still hold the longest active streak against an annual opponent in the nation.

OnlyGators.com is here to break down the game, so here are seven takeaways.

Starter named? Redshirt freshman Will Grier played the entire game at quarterback for Florida. Though his stat line was not incredibly impressive (13 of 22, 125 yards, interception; 61 rushing yards, touchdown), Grier was effective with his legs and avoided the crucial mistake … for most of the game. An interception thrown into the end zone was costly and resulted in a swing of 6-10 points for the Gators, as the defense allowed the Wildcats to drive back down the field following the turnover. Florida’s offense helped Grier out in the first half, but in the latter 30 minutes, his teammates dropped passes and the offensive line could not hold Kentucky’s rush long enough to give Grier enough time to throw. Furthermore, Grier appeared to injure his right side, which appeared to affect his throwing ability, though he did remain in the game.

In the end, UF’s offensive numbers were simply dreadful: 245 total yards (125 passing), 2 of 11 on third downs, 2 of 4 in the red zone – though that is not all the fault of Grier.

Bent but didn’t break: The Gators’ defense, both its front seven (missed tackles) and secondary (blown coverage), were tested throughout the night and spent nearly the entire second half on the field. While Florida did not give up a touchdown and held in the red zone on multiple occasions, it was far from the top-tier defense that was expected when the season began. Junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III had a clutch first-half 53-yard interception (that he almost returned for a touchdown), and redshirt sophomore CB Quincy Wilson ended the contest with another pick on a last-ditch 4th and 27 for Kentucky.

What a rush: Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard was tremendous on Saturday, picking up two clutch sacks (for a total loss of 21 yards), including one on the final series of the game that basically put the ball in the Gators’ court to close things out. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Alex McCalister (two sacks, 14-yard loss) and freshman defensive end CeCe Jefferson (half sack) also stood out with top-notch play on the evening. UF finished with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss in Lexington. Junior linebacker Jarrad Davis (10 tackles) and junior safety Keanu Neal (nine tackles) each stepped up with 1.5 takedowns for lost yardage; Neal added a sack.

They can catch: McElwain criticized Florida’s wide receivers throughout fall camp, but the players did their best to make him look foolish early on Saturday as freshman Antonio Callaway and junior Ahmad Fulwood made some spectacular grabs that continued drives and put the Gators in position to score. Callaway’s one-handed 34-yard haul helped Florida flip the field and gave it an opportunity to put points on the board, while Fulwood’s diving grab extended a drive. (Callaway also had an impressive 37-yard punt return and nine-yard reverse run on the evening.) The one UF wideout who failed live up to his reputation? Sophomore Brandon Powell, who dropped an easy pass and forgot to turn around on another important throw late in the game. Gators’ receivers barely even contributed in the second half after playing so well in the first, however.

Welcome, Jake McGee: An injury derailed his transfer season and coverage dictated that McGee did not get many opportunities through the first two weeks, but the redshirt senior had a tremendous first half for the Gators on Saturday with three diving grabs for 30 yards. His second turned a 3rd and 8 (caused by a delay of game penalty, more on that later) into a 4th and 1 (which Florida converted), and his second was part of a 10-play, 57-yard touchdown scoring drive to end the first half and put UF up 14-3 at the break.

Don’t worry; be happy: Though junior Kelvin Taylor did not start at running back for the Gators – that honor belonged to freshman Jordan Cronkrite – he did get the vast majority of the carries (16) and totaled 45 yards on the evening. McElwain made a concerted effort to run Taylor, allowing him to carry the ball on four straight plays during Florida’s initial scoring drive, though he was off the field as Grier rumbled in for the one-yard touchdown. Taylor would score later, though. Cronkrite finished with 12 yards on six carries, and fellow freshman Jordan Scarlett did not even see the field.

More mistakes and miscues: There are actually too many to name, but let’s try. (1) Powell ran a kickoff out of the end zone when told not to, and (2) a block in the back penalty resulted in the Gators starting a drive at their own five. (3) Taylor ran backwards inside the five and was tackled at Florida’s one. (4) UF moved down to UK’s 15-yard line and false started; on the same drive, the Gators (5) committed a delay of game on a made field goal and ended up getting their (6) second attempt blocked. (7) A 12-men-on-the-field penalty turned a 3rd and 3 into a 3rd and 8, which forced Florida into a situation where it needed to convert a fourth down.

Senior WR Latroy Pittman Jr., playing his first game back from suspension, (8) committed a running into the punter penalty (but did his best to remedy the situation). (9) Freshman offensive lineman Fredrick Johnson false started on 3rd and long, making a conversion even more difficult and pushing UF out of field goal range. (10) Grier threw an interception (11) in the end zone (12) on first down; the Wildcats responded with a long drive – aided by UF (13) allowing a 33-yard scramble to QB Patrick Towles and (14) committing a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the play – but were held to a field goal. Redshirt sophomore punter Johnny Townsend struggled with his punting all night, but after hitting a deep one, saw Florida (15) called for illegal formation with less than nine minutes to play and a five-point lead.


  1. Ken (CA) says:

    McElwain has a lot of work to do on that offense. but it doesn’t seem to be lack of talent. The skill players have flashes where they do great things and long periods where they do not so great. It seems to be something mental, maybe instilled due to Muschamp’s tenure of inept offensive schemes. (hard to believe how bad our offense was the past several years with 4 starting linemen in the NFL as well as receivers and a couple of running backs during that time). I am sure Auburn loves their overpaid incredible DC.

    Defense really needs to work on fundamental wrap up and tackle. So many arm tackles attempted and missed, especially early in the game.

    Coach Mac seemed to think they were far more disciplined this week than they were last week in his post-game presser, but almost as many penalties, some coming at the worst possible time.

    UK is a better team and it is going to be challenging to keep the streak going in the next few years, but definitely a nice road win and another step forward for the kids.

  2. Michael Jones says:

    1. McElwain cann coach.

    2. Grier is going to be a good one.

    3. Demarcus Robinson wants to break everything outside so he can get to the sideline instead of getting hit. Before you start whining about that, go back and watch. He breaks it to the outside EVERY TIME, even when the inside is what is open and he could gain a lot more yardage by cutting upfield. He’s always looking for the sideline.

    • Matt Burris says:

      I felt like DeMarcus Robinson was trying to get too fancy and it nearly cost a first down both times. He’d try to be evasive to get more YAC but what he really needed to do was have situational awareness and realized that he’s close to the first down and needs to get across before he starts dancing. If we had an offense that gets first downs often, then sure, he can try for more YAC, but we don’t, so hopefully the coaches get on to him about that.

    • Oldflyer says:

      What evidence do you offer for statement #1? This team/offense looked no better in any category than last year’s team. The defense actually looked worse. UK helped them a lot with their own mistakes.

      Alex, Grier gets a pass for the same reason that Driskel deserved it in so many games. He was running for his life and had little support. When your QB is your leading rusher–all on scrambles–there is no reason to criticize him. This kid, in the second game of his career in which he was actually handed the keys to the bus, showed a lot of poise and GUTS. We know that he can throw accurately, and will, if he has not actually injured his throwing shoulder. We now know that he can run the team.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Oldflyer, you’re a career Muschamp supporter so I take your comments in that context. Saturday night’s Gators were more creative on offense BY FAR, more disciplined all the way around, and beat a UK team that was better than any UK team Champ faced and beat them in their brand new stadium in front of a pretty fired up home crowd. Plus we don’t currently have all of those NFL draft picks on the OL that Champ wasted.

        But by all means keeping defending Muschamp even if it flies in the face of reason.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      I noticed the same thing with Robinson couldn’t understand why when he caught one on the left side his lead blocker was blocking a man toward the sideline opening a gap for him and he pushed to the outside right where the defender s being blocked to.

  3. Michael Jones says:

    Sidebar: I enjoyed watching another one dimensional offense run all over Auburn’s uninspired defensive as the The Hat hung 45 on Foley’s beloved Defensive Genius.

  4. Alex says:

    If Treon Harris played like Grier did yesterday Gator Nation would be calling for his head.

    Why does Grier get a pass?

    • Matt Burris says:

      A small percentage of vocal people online does not equal Gator Nation. Most Gators know that both QBs are young and inexperienced and wouldn’t call for their heads or replacements, but already know that neither have the experience yet to play big. Even Tebow had rough games in 2007 as a soph as he built up experience, and it paid off on 2008 as he was a smarter and more aware QB.

    • Mark says:

      You’re probably right, but only because Treon started 6 games last year and we’ve seen what he can do, good and bad. Will is still a bit of an unknown, and people would be begging to see what he can do. He gets a pass because I think most people think his upside is much higher than Treon’s. He is more accurate, more decisive, and has a much quicker release. Treon’s one strength was that he can run the ball better, but after last night I think Will proved he is every bit as capable. What is it that you’ve seen from Treon that makes you think he is a better?

    • Michael Jones says:

      Only a Treon supporter would say something like that. Grier played well. If Treon had played that well, you would be exaggerating how great a performance it was like most of Treon’s supporters do.

      I am a Treon supporter too, by the way. But Grier played really well Saturday night. Statistics don’t come close to telling the whole story. Grier has the look of a guy who will be All-SEC one day.

  5. like rm says:

    Nice writing piece. Especially like the mistake section be cause many of them were important momentum pieces of the game.

    Tonight still reminds me of last season: many penalties, missed field goals, low scoring offense, missed tackles. Ugh.

  6. scroud says:

    If Harris is better with his legs and the offensive line continues to struggle to provide protection, then Harris should still be seeing playing time. I would have liked to so have seen him in the second half last night.

    Also, on the 33 yard run by the KY QB, the refs overlooked VH getting tackled

    Finally, while I too have confidence in Coach McElwain, he should be held responsible for the delay of game on the FG attempt. He should have called a timeout from the sideline.

    Are things any better than last year? We are 3-0, hopefully they will clean up all the mistakes but I am nervous

  7. Iamtheeggman says:

    First of all, I was wrong. I thought UF would lose to Kentucky. The defense for Florida was outstanding, and won the game for Florida. Patrick Towles was dreadful, but some credit must be given to UF’s defense for that. I also thought Grier was a going to be a disaster. He wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t a disaster that cost UF the game. His rushing was the most critical part of UF’s offense and he only turned the ball over once. I thought this team was worse than last year’s, but winning on the road matches last year’s win at Tennessee. Uf is still a mediocre offense, but anyone who thought that was going to change because of different plays being called was not paying attention.
    UF, believe it or not, could become ranked if they beat Tennessee. Joshua Dobbs is another quarterback that’s not good. If Grier can avoid giving the ball away, like he did against Kentucky for the most part, UF can ride the defense to victory. Florida is not a good team, far from it, but there aren’t many good teams on UF’s schedule, so winning more than six games is possible.

    • Spuntly says:

      Not many good teams on the schedule? Have you seen the stretch coming up? Tennessee, Ole Miss, at Mizzou, at LSU, UGA. There is hardly a team in the country that has to face a 5 game stretch like that. Then still left is South Carolina, who I’m sure will improve as the season goes on, and Florida State. That is a ridiculous schedule. To have Ole Miss and LSU out of the West?!? Good lord. C’mon Humpty Dumpty, don’t even try to say that is a soft schedule. However, nice to actually read a little Gator love from you. Maybe you are not actually as dumb as you usually type.

      • Iamtheeggman says:

        I don’t think the schedule is as tough as you perceive. New Mexico State is probably the worst team in the FBS. East Carolina was just crushed by Navy. Kentucky’s big win was against South Carolina, who may really be as bad as people feared. Missouri, they are a mystery. They have not looked good so far, far from it. But they also lost to Indiana at home last year and still won the East, so I’ll wait until they actually play someone before deciding if they are any good. Vanderbilt is awful this year and Florida Atlantic is another paid cupcake. Tennessee, for all the hype, still seems to have a mediocre quarterback and can’t win a big game. Florida, at least for Tennessee, constitutes a big game.
        That leaves Ole Miss, who looks impressive and, unlike Florida last year, was good enough to take advantage of Alabama turning the ball over a bunch. LSU looks very strong, but it’s not a lot to crow about when you run over Auburn’s defense since most everyone does so. Georgia also looks strong, but their big win was against the aforementioned South Carolina. FSU put up less yards, 217, on offense this past week than Florida, 245.
        The point I’m making is that only Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, and FSU look like they may be good or great teams right now. I think, believe it or not, that Leonard Fournette is not Superman, and a concerted effort by a good defense, not a bad one like Auburn, can stop him. I just don’t feel good about UF’s offense against Ole Miss, LSU, and FSU. But other than the last four teams I listed, UF has a good chance to beat them. It starts this week when the school that has the gorilla hanging around it’s neck arrives in town. The season could rise or fall on the outcome of that game. After all, all UF has done up to this point is win the same games that Muschamp won, with the exception of the Georgia Southern game.

        • Spuntly says:

          No, I’m quite sure this is a tough schedule. You are entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think you really believe what you type. You are stirring the pot with weak efforts to either say UFs schedule is weak, Coach Mac is a raving lunatic, DBU?!?!, etc..etc..
          If you are a Gator fan, which I doubt, then you are the kind that embarrasses the rest of us who enjoy being Gator fans. We are the good people, the ones who don’t whine like a spoiled child when everything isn’t perfect. According to your “everyone sucks here” attitude, I sure as hell hope you are not a Gator fan. Keep bringing it Humpty, this is fun!

  8. ryan v. says:

    Grier is still probably getting better. Remember this is only his 3rd game under the lights. Harris had the bulk of a SEC schedule last year and a bowl game. It’s safe the say they are both pretty equal right now. One (Harris) after 10 games combined over two seasons and one (Grier) with only 3 played, I understand why coach is giving Grier more chances to develop. We pretty much know where Treon is at. Give Grier the chance to get those bad passes out of his system you might develop a better passer.

    As for defense, Towles scorched us last year under defensive coach Muschamp with a much better D-line. This year he was ineffective in his second year under Mark Stoops. Credit Geoff Collins there.

  9. 1974Gator says:

    I still don’t understand why our DBs intercept passes thrown deep on 4th down? It happened at the end of the Ky game and the DB slid to the ground immediately. Knocking down the pass would have given us a 30 yd better starting point. With more time on the clock we might have tried to get close enough for a last minute field goal. I was coached to knock those passes down in grade school. Seems they are padding their stats.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I agree with you 100%. It happens in college and NFL and the coaches look the other way for some reason and allow these selfish players to pad their statistics over the best interest of the team. It is total BS and in the good old days a DB was praised for unselfishly batting it down and ridiculed for selfishly intercepting it.

      Notice how the announcers won’t even make a peep about it? I suspect there’s some PC behind it all.

      Sign of the times, man.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Catching the ball is safer than it is batting it down. There was no need for a last second field goal as they could then run out the clock with the victory formation at that point. Strange things can happen when you bat the ball, do it slightly wrong and you could pop it in an odd direction and while focusing on the ball you likely don’t know where all of the other teams players are.

      It is very easy for a batted ball to suddenly become a “tipped” ball

  10. Fernzpat says:

    In no way am I a Treon homer, but what is up with leaving a banged up QB who was ineffective and hurting in the 2nd half in during a QB competition?

    Please O-line grow up in a hurry…

    • Ken (CA) says:

      They explained that. Coach Mac talked to him after the injury was looked at and said if he could go that was fine, but if not, don’t be selfish and put the team first. Grier was certain he could finish it off, and so Coach gave him the opportunity since he put them in that position to begin with. Big trust builder with the team to know that their leader is a gamer and will grind through it all to stick with them.

  11. Mike The Red says:

    My two cents.

    (1) We beat a much improved UK on the road with a team decimated by the draft. That is positive.
    (2) We need to establish a running game if we want to compete.
    (3) It is a shame that Cronkrite hurt his ankle. I would like to see him get more carries.
    (4) I am not sure why Grier played the whole game. The offense was flat in the second half. Harris should have been given a chance. For all of you who thought that rotating QBs was preventing them from finding a rhythm, do you still feel that way?
    (5) Statement of the obvious. Our defense gives us hope.

    It will be interesting to see what happens next week.

  12. KarVer says:

    Grier was asked if he wanted to stay in an continue, it was his choice. He said yes coach. An then asked if he was alright by coach grier said im alright an was allowed to keep playing. The offensive line is whats bugging me most then the WR’s, then special teams who aint special

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