Today's storylines: UF at Kentucky
Published: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 1:06 a.m.
Fowler's UK connection
Florida defensive end/outside LB Dante Fowler Jr. once had a pretty tight relationship with two coaches on the Kentucky sideline — head coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. Stoops and Eliot were at Florida State from 2010-12 and developed a bond with Fowler during the recruiting process. In fact, Fowler committed to Stoops and the Seminoles after his sophomore season in high school. Fowler, of course, flipped to Florida on signing day. “They're good guys,” Fowler said. “Being around them, they're good coaches and stuff like that. It will be nice to talk to them after the game.”
Streak insignificant to Gators
Stoops said earlier this week that Florida's 26-game winning streak against Kentucky may motivate some of his players tonight, but it would not be a focus in practice or preparation. The streak was pretty much ignored this week by Will Muschamp and the Gators. “I don't really talk about that at all,” Muschamp said. “I just focus on this game, this week, this season, this team, what we need to do to be successful. I don't think anything in that regard helps or hurts your football team in preparation.”
Going with the hot hand
The Gators were expecting Matt Jones to be their dominant, every-down tailback this season, but that hasn't happened. Instead, the tailback position is being shared, mostly by two players — Jones and junior Mack Brown. Muschamp said the Gators will continue to play the tailback with the hot hand. Last week it was Brown. Tonight, it could be Brown, Jones — or maybe even true freshman Kelvin Taylor. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said earlier this week Taylor has really started coming on in practice and could get significant carries tonight.
Warm homecoming for Joker?
Stoops said he doesn't think Florida WRs coach Joker Phillips will receive a rude welcome home when he returns to Commonwealth Stadium tonight. Phillips played at UK, was the WRs coach and offensive coordinator there, and the Wildcats' head coach before being fired last season. “I wouldn't think so,” Stoops said. “I think most people around here have good feelings about coach Phillips and the work that he's done at Kentucky. He's a very good person and a good coach.”
Called into action when the unthinkable happened against Tennessee, Tyler Murphy stepped off the sideline and into the spotlight. Murphy performed admirably, displaying accuracy and the ability to pick up yards on the ground. Away from the friendly confines of The Swamp, the redshirt junior enters his first collegiate start with the hopes of a seemingly crumbling season on his shoulders. A strong game in Lexington could provide hope when the Gators need it most.
If history is any indication, Florida's 26-game streak could be in for a close call with an unlikely quarterback at the helm. In 1993, redshirt freshman Danny Wuerffel entered the game after Terry Dean threw four interceptions and led the Gators to a 24-20 dramatic comeback win over the Wildcats that ended on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Doering. Ten years later, freshman Chris Leak made his first start and the Gators rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 24-21 win.
UF's defensive numbers through its first three games have been eye-popping. The Gators lead the SEC in scoring defense (14.7 ppg), rushing defense (55.3 ypg), pass defense (157.0 ypg), total defense (212.3 ypg) and third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert on only 7 of 37 attempts. With defensive leader Dominique Easley out for the season, how much those numbers change will depend on how well younger players can play in his absence.
In the zone
Despite going 4-of-5 in the red zone last week with three rushing touchdowns, the Gators still have the conference's lowest scoring percentage inside 20 yards (58.8 percent). On the flip side, the Wildcats lead the SEC in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score only 69.2 percent of the time. Florida will need to continue finishing drives today against an improving aggressive defense.
TODAY'S GAME QUESTIONS
1.In his first start, will Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy show the same poise and composure he did last week against Tennessee?
2.The Gators have recorded only four sacks this season. Will UF be able to get to quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow?
3.The Florida offense will see a lot of eight-man defensive fronts tonight. Can the Gators hit some big plays in the passing game?
4. Will the Florida defense, ranked No. 2 nationally, hold a potent UK offense to less than 350 yards?
5. The Gators did not handle adversity well on the road in a loss to Miami. Can they handle it tonight?
Visit Gatorsports.com after the game for Robbie Andreu's answers.