Image Credit: ESPNI
One week after looking, well, pathetic, the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) regrouped and put together their most dominant effort in years, annihilating the Kentucky Wildcats (0-2, 0-1 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Florida led 14-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 at halftime and 38-0 after the third quarter, controlling the game from start to finish while overcoming a couple miscues along the way.
The Gators offense looked as good as it has to date under head coach Jim McElwain, though the 45-7 win should come with a caveat as the Wildcats gave up 79 straight points dating back to the second quarter of their opener against Southern Miss.
Here are six things we learned from Florida’s big victory.
1. Mark it 30, dude: Let’s get this out of the way. The Gators won their 30th straight game in the series with the Wildcats and 19th consecutive such game inside The Swamp. Florida extended the nation’s longest active winning streak against a single opponent and posted its most dominant victory over Kentucky since a 38-0 shutout in 2012. The prior two games between these teams were decided by 11 total points.
2. Seeing major progress: Say what you will about UK’s defense, UF’s offense showed out on Saturday. The Gators posted 564 total yards — the most in a full year and most in an SEC game since 2001 vs. Vanderbilt — and absolutely dominated the Wildcats’ defense in every phase of the game. Florida averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 50 attempts, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio completed 19-of-32 passes for 320 yards with four touchdowns and one interception (a tipped ball that can be blamed on the intended receiver). UF was also 14-of-20 on third-down conversions after a lackluster 9-for-27 showing on such attempts last week. Florida also had more yards with 10:12 left in the third quarter on Saturday (369) than it did all of last week (363).
3. They kept running: Speaking of the Gators’ dominance on the ground, Florida toted the rock 50 times for 244 yards on the afternoon. Sophomore Jordan Scarlett (nine carries, 43 yards, touchdown) got the early work, junior Mark Thompson (15 carries, 59 yards, touchdown) held things down throughout the game and freshman Lamical Perine (17 carries, 105 yards) put the nail in the coffin. Florida’s commitment to the ground game was a nice change of pace after a 60/40 split one week ago against UMass.
4. And they kept throwing, too: Forget dink-and-dunk. Del Rio aired the ball out Saturday, hitting sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway for a 78-yard touchdown and nearly linking up with sophomore WR Brandon Powell on another massive bomb. Callaway finished with a career-high 129 yards on five receptions, but Del Rio spread the ball around to nine difference pass catchers (four with multiple receptions). Four found the end zone with Powell (four receptions, 43 yards), freshman Freddie Swain (reception, 26 yards) and Perine (reception, 28 yards) joining Callaway past the pylons. Del Rio’s 320 passing yards were the most for a UF quarterback in an SEC game since 2004 (Chris Leak, Arkansas).
5. DBU, indeed: After failing to turn the ball over against UMass, Florida picked off three passes and recovered a fumble Saturday. The Gators’ three star defensive backs — juniors Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson and senior Marcus Maye — each picked off a pass on the afternoon. Florida also held Kentucky QB Drew Barker to 2-of-10 passing. On the day, the Gators caught the ball as many times as the Wildcats’ receivers as UK’s signal callers combined for 3-of-13 passing for 55 yards. The Gators held the Wildcats to 149 yards on the afternoon, zero in the third quarter.
WHAT. A. PICK.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) September 10, 2016
6. Coming back to Earth: Redshirt sophomore kicker Eddy Pineiro was nails in the opener, hitting three field goals from 40+ yards, but he was not nearly as successful Saturday. Yes, Pineiro’s impressive 54-yard make was the longest field goal kicked by a Florida player since 2011 (Caleb Sturgis, 55 yards), but he also missed two other attempts. Pineiro went wide left on a 42-yarder to open the game and hit a wounded duck on a 48-yard attempt late in the contest.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) September 10, 2016