Florida Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 4 Game vs. Kentucky
The Florida Gators started their season 4-0 for the fourth year in a row.
This is the second time Florida has started a season 4-0 under Will Muschamp, but something about this season feels different that 2011. The way the Gators have won and the teams they have played bring a new sense of optimism and hope that hasn't surrounded the team in a couple of years.
The win on Saturday may not have been the Gators' most impressive of the season. Florida hasn't lost to Kentucky since 1986, but there were still things to learn about the team in their 38-0 win.
As with every game, there are winners and losers on both sides of the ball. Let's take a look at who came out on top and who needs to bounce back based on their performance on Saturday.
Winner: Matt Jones
Florida has their feature back in Mike Gillislee, but the backup situation is still playing out behind him.
Not only did Matt Jones get the most carries of his short career, but it's what he did with those carries that finds him on the right side of this list.
Jones ran the ball hard even when he was inserted during garbage time. Even with the Gators up 31-0, Jones was running like the game had just kicked off, and the score was tied. He showed patience in waiting for a lane to develop and then decisiveness with the way he attacked the hole and finished his runs.
Jones carried the ball 10 times for 45 yards, and the way he was running should catch the coaches' eyes as he and Mack Brown continue to battle for carries.
Loser: Trey Burton
Trey Burton finds himself on the loser side not for poor play and not even for anything he could have prevented.
Burton didn't play in the game after suffering from back spasms on Friday.
It had to be disappointing for Burton, considering how well he has played against Kentucky the past two season. In just two games against Kentucky, Burton has found the end zone seven times, including a record-breaking six times his freshman year.
Back spasms are a tricky injury to predict as they seem to pop up out of nowhere. Getting this week off coupled with an open date next week should give him time to rest, and hopefully for Gator fans, he will be back to face LSU.
Winner: The Defense
While the defense played a far-from-perfect game, Will Muschamp said it best in his postgame press conference, "Anytime you get a shutout, those things are hard to come by."
It was the Gators' first shutout since beating UAB in the second week last season and the first time they shut out an SEC opponent since a 2001 victory over Mississippi State.
Florida was able to pick off Morgan Newton three times, including an interception returned for a touchdown from Jaylen Watkins. Watkins picked off Newton on the Kentucky 26-yard line and went untouched into the end zone. De'Ante Saunders and Michael Taylor accounted for the other two interceptions.
It doesn't matter who you're playing against as a defense, when you keep the other team off the score board, you did your job that week.
Loser: Stopping the Run
Yeah, I know the last slide said the Gators defense was a winner this week, but it also mentioned that they didn't play a perfect week.
Florida allowed Kentucky to run for 159 yards while averaging five yards a carry. Kentucky has the 13th-ranked rushing offense in the SEC, only Arkansas is lower ranked. Kentucky only managed to run for 41 yards on 19 carries against Western Kentucky a week ago.
Florida was gashed up the middle, and it allowed Kentucky to move the ball effectively, especially in the first half.
Florida will get a much-needed open date this week which should give them time to get some players healthy and start working on some of the deficiencies they have had through the first four games.
Winner: Third-Down Conversions
Through three games, the Gators were struggling to convert on third down. Going into the game against Kentucky, Florida had only converted 11-of-41 tries on third down.
Against Kentucky, the Gators converted 12-of-17 attempts—a huge improvement.
Florida was able to do it against Kentucky, but October is filled with some of the best defenses the SEC has to offer, if they can continue to convert on third down, the Gators will surprise some people moving forward.
Loser: Andre Debose
If Will Muschamp were to build a dog house, he might hang a picture of Andre Debose in it.
Debose didn't receive any playing time in the first half and muffed a punt when he finally did get into the game.
Debose has yet to record a reception this year and has only rushed the ball four times. He returned just two punts on Saturday and wasn't featured on offense at all.
When asked why Debose didn't play in the first half, Muschamp talked about (via E.G. Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel) not practicing well and about setting a precedent that players need to practice well if they want to play for him.
Winner: Jeff Driskel
Another game is in the books, and Jeff Driskel continues to mature and grow as a quarterback.
Driskel was given more responsibility this week than he has had all season. He had a career high in attempts (27) and completions (18) while throwing for over 200 yards and a touchdown.
The game wasn't perfect. Driskel was high on several throws, was sacked three times and held onto the ball a little too long in some situations. Driskel also threw his first interception of the season when he tried to force a pass into double coverage in the end zone.
You like to see a quarterback take chances, but that's a pass you cannot make when the competition becomes stiffer.
With that being said, the improvements he is making on a week-to-week basis are very encouraging. If he keeps playing and improving at the rate he currently is, the SEC may need to watch out because the Gators could have a special quarterback in Driskel.
Loser: Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett got his first playing time since the opener against Bowling Green and even scored a rushing touchdown.
So why is he on this list?
Brissett entered the game in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was all but decided and took 16 snaps. He didn't attempt a single pass.
Look, I get it, you don't want to start throwing the ball all around the field when you're up 30 points late in the fourth quarter, but seriously, can't Tyler Murphy come in to hand the ball off for the last 12 minutes?
Steve Spurrier was infamous for "running scores up" even though the 'Ole Ball Coach insists he was just running his offense with backups.
Muschamp and Pease should have let Brissett run the offense and attempt at least a couple of passes. It was hard to watch a quarterback, who was in the running to be the starter until halftime of the opening game, come in and basically exist just to take the snap and hand it off to Matt Jones.
Winner: Jordan Reed
One play was enough for Jordan Reed to find his way onto the winners' list.
With 1:11 to go before halftime, the Gators were trying to put some points on the board in a two-minute drill. Driskel delivered a perfectly placed ball to Reed 25 yards down the field, and Reed was met by two Kentucky defenders immediately.
Reed took a shot from two defenders, even drawing a penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit, but was able to hold onto the ball despite losing his helmet.
Reed is having a good year through four games, but this has to be up there as one of his top plays of the season.
Loser: The Offensive Line
Despite Brent Pease insisting that the offensive line has been one of the strengths of this team, they once again failed to live up to that billing.
Yes, Florida was able to rush for 200 yards and three touchdowns, but only Auburn has a worse rushing defense than Kentucky in the SEC. Kentucky is giving up an average of 192.25 rushing yards per game and has already surrendered 12 touchdowns on the ground. And that's against Louisville, Kent State and Western Kentucky.
The offensive line needs to become more consistent and play more physical.