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It's Only Kentucky

by Craig Stephens
Oct 04, 2013 5:16 PM EDT



Say it with me: It’s only Kentucky. Tyler Murphy completed his first 11 passes. It’s only Kentucky. Matt Jones ran for 176 yards. It’s only Kentucky. Gators only let up 173 yards of total offense. It’s only Kentucky. Gators replacement QB Murphy did look good. His throws were crisp and accurate. He definitely did not look like a kid making his first start. However, other than an improvised pass on a broken play, all of Murphy’s passes during his hot start were under 15 yards. He kept hitting receivers on quick slants and drag routes. They were simple three-step drops to open receivers. It looked like practice. While 11 for 11 is always impressive, Kentucky was content to play soft zone coverage and let Murphy chew up the defense underneath. Will Muschamp clearly wanted to make his new starting quarterback comfortable. The staff called passing plays with quick and easy reads, and the opening drive was stuffed with short slants and screens to get Murphy into rhythm. To further ease the start of his new quarterback, the coaches fed Jones the ball. Jones carried the ball a season-high 28 times, consistently gained positive yardage, and protected the football. It is hard to tell if Jones is fully recovered from his illness or if the Kentucky defense is bad enough to allow a virally infected running back to slash through them without retribution. The best part of Jones’ game is his ability to break tackles, though it was not evident against Kentucky. The yardage Jones racked up is more of a testament to good run blocking than anything he did. He regularly went down on first contact and only showed flashes of the bruising style that shakes tackles. Kentucky’s first drive exploited the absence of Dominique Easley. For the whole first quarter, the Wildcats’ line was able to push back the interior defense for productive runs up the middle. Kentucky moved the ball by combining inside running with short screens that have plagued the Florida defense all season. After the first quarter, however, their defense bottled up Kentucky’s offense. Kentucky amassed a total of 98 yards in the second, third and fourth quarters. View these lessons with perspective. Kentucky is miles behind the rest of the SEC right now, so the numbers are inflated. Fans should be hopeful about Murphy because accuracy probably is the most important attribute for a quarterback in Brent Pease’s offense. Murphy would have completed those first 11 throws against anyone running the same coverage. While that is not a ringing endorsement, knowing Murphy can make the easy throws means that the Gators can at least deploy screens and slants against defenses that will try blitzing to stop the run. Pease will open up more of the playbook as Murphy shows his skills, all while leaning on the running game. It was encouraging to see Jones gaining yards, but he did not do anything that Mack Brown couldn’t have done against the Kentucky defense. For all we know, Brown might have run for 200 yards. The evidence provided by the Kentucky game is simply too inconclusive to say that Jones is back. So we will have to wait and see, as he gets stronger and healthier, if he will perform well against tough SEC defenses. Along the same lines, losing Easley was never going to swing a game against Kentucky. Florida is just deeper and more talented than the Wildcats, but it is still to be seen if Easley’s injury will change the outcome against better opponents like South Carolina and Georgia. Florida played well, but it’s still only Kentucky. There is no way to tell if the Gators are ready for stiffer competition until they get out on the field and put it on tape.