3 Takeaways from Florida's Week 13 Win
The Florida Gators could have entered halftime on upset alert because of their low offensive production against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Before the Gators went into the locker room, though, a pair of special teams plays provided the spark to secure a lead after 30 minutes and cruise through the second half to a 34-10 win, their seventh victory of the 2020 campaign.
Jacob Finn's coffin-corner punt that pinned Kentucky deep in its own territory turned into a drive that concluded with Kadarius Toney's punt-return touchdown.
Once Dan Mullen's squad took the four-point advantage, it piled on points behind the Kyle Trask-Kyle Pitts combination to move one step closer to the SEC Championship Game and a potential College Football Playoff berth.
Special Teams Plays at End of 1st Half Changed Game
Florida scored on its opening drive, but then it failed to produce points on three following series.
The third failure occurred after Kentucky took a three-point lead through a Matt Ruffolo field goal that looked set to give the Wildcats the halftime advantage.
But once Finn's second punt left his foot, the game began to change. The Florida specialist pinned the Wildcats at the 1-yard line.
The visitors gained nine yards and failed to earn a first down, which forced them to punt with 42 seconds remaining in the half. Toney caught the punt at midfield, darted from left to right and provided the Gators with a much-needed spark before the half.
Florida's offense benefited from the momentum gained at the end of the first half by putting up 10 points on its first two series of the second half. From that point on, the defense took over and allowed Trask to drive down the field and extend the lead.
Defensive Backs Turned In a Fantastic 2nd Half
Kentucky is not known as one of the best passing teams in the SEC because quarterback Terry Wilson is typically better with his legs.
However, with Kentucky facing a two-score deficit in the second half, the Wildcats took to the air in an attempt to get back into the contest. Florida came up with three interceptions in the second half to prevent any come-from-behind surge from its SEC East foe.
Mohamoud Diabate picked off Wilson in the third quarter to set up an easy three-play, 12-yard touchdown drive for the offense.
Shawn Davis prevented the Wildcats from gaining any momentum off a missed field goal by swiping Wilson's third-down pass with 11 minutes left in the fourth period. That turnover resulted in an Evan McPherson field goal.
Tre'Vez Johnson sealed a perfect second half for the Florida defense by picking off Joey Gatewood on Kentucky's final drive of the afternoon.
Florida held Wilson to 62 passing yards, which was his second-lowest total of the season. The only pass Gatewood threw was intercepted.
If the Gators continue to thrive against the passing attacks of the Tennessee Volunteers and LSU Tigers, they should enter the SEC Championship Game with plenty of confidence to face the Alabama Crimson Tide's elite wide receiver group, led by DeVonta Smith.
Kyle Pitts Did Not Miss a Beat
Pitts returned from a two-game injury-enforced absence by putting up his second-highest totals in receiving yards and touchdowns of the season.
The tight end caught five balls for 99 yards and found the end zone on three occasions. He now has 513 yards and 11 scores in his junior season.
Pitts' first touchdown was his longest of the afternoon, but the two that occurred within 10 yards in the second half were the more important plays. Trask called on Pitts in two red-zone situations to kill off any upset threat Kentucky wanted to muster in the second half.
Getting Pitts back in a groove had to be one of Florida's top priorities Saturday since he is its best option in the passing game. Just like the defense, if Pitts maintains this level over Florida's next two games, he will enter the SEC Championship Game in terrific form.
And as Trask's top threat in scoring scenarios, Pitts could be the X-factor in knocking off Alabama and landing a spot in the College Football Playoff.