Notebook: Toney again displays skillset to spark Gators

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Kadarius Toney, Kendall Randolph
Florida quarterback Kadarius Toney, center, runs past Kentucky cornerback Kendall Randolph, right, to score a touchdown during the first half of a game in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s pretty much confirmed now: Florida’s biggest playmaker on offense at this early stage of the season is true freshman wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

Toney, who showed flashes as a potential home-run hitter against Tennessee, knocked one out of the park Saturday night against Kentucky, lining up as the wildcat quarterback and weaving his way through the Wildcats’ defense for a 36-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

Toney also nearly broke a long one earlier in the game, when he cut back across the field on a screen pass and gained 19 yards.

Thanks to Toney’s TD run, and some push by the Florida offensive line, the Gators rushed for 101 yards in the first half against the nation’s No. 3 run defense. Coming into the game, the Wildcats were giving up a mere 57 yards a game on the ground.

The lonesome end

In what had to be the biggest oversight of the night, Kentucky’s secondary failed to line anyone up on wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland on a fourth-and-three play late in the second quarter.

Lined up wide with no one near him, Cleveland frantically waved to quarterback Feleipe Franks before the snap. Franks saw him, lobbed the ball in the right flat and Cleveland caught it and turned it into a game-tying 45-yard TD reception.

Joseph ejected

Starting outside linebacker Vosean Joseph was ejected for targeting for his helmet-to-helmet hit on UK quarterback Stephen Johnson late in the first half.

On the same play, the defense was also called for a second personal foul penalty. The overall 30-yard penalty moved the ball to the UF 42-yard line.

But Wildcats failed to take advantage of the scoring opportunity that could have given them the halftime lead. Following back-to-back sacks by defensive end Cece Jefferson, UK place-kicker Austin MacGinnis clanged a 48-yard field goal attempt off the right upright with 16 seconds left.

Dawson good to go

UF announced about two hours before kickoff that senior starting cornerback Duke Dawson had been cleared to play in Saturday night’s game.

Dawson started the game and was beaten on a fade route by wide receiver Garrett Johnson for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave UK a 14-7 lead.

Dawson sustained a concussion in the second half against Tennessee a week earlier and had been under concussion protocol all week.

Had Dawson not been granted medical clearance, the Gators would have started two true freshmen at cornerback — Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson. Dawson has started all three games this season, while Henderson came off the bench to return an interception for a touchdown in each of the first two games.

Young Gators

Florida’s youth movement is reflected in the travel roster for Saturday’s game. Of the 70 on the roster, 16 were true freshmen — six on offense and 10 on defense.

The 16 freshmen making their first SEC road trip were: quarterback Jake Allen, running back Malik Davis, wide receiver Kadarius Toney, wide receiver Daquon Green, tight end Kemore Gamble, offensive tackle T.J. Moore, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, defensive end Zach Carter, linebacker Lacetrick Brunson, safety Brad Steward, cornerback Marco Wilson, cornerback CJ Henderson, safety Donovan Stiner and safety Shawn Davis.

The Gators played 12 true freshmen in the first two games of the season.

‘Cats remember 45-7

There is no doubt that the Wildcats had revenge on their minds — just not Saturday night but for the entire week.

Throughout the week, a replay of last year’s 45-7 Gator rout in The Swamp played over and over in the locker room and around the football facility.

Amazingly, the Wildcats rebounded from that game and turned their 2016 season around, winning seven of their last 10 games, including a big win on the road against arch-rival Louisville, to become bowl eligible.

Heading into Saturday’s game, UK was 10-3 over the last 13 regular-season games.

This and that

UK fans were certainly excited about the matchup with the Gators. They sold out the stadium for the first time since Oct. 10, 2015, against Auburn. … The Wildcats were trying to move to 4-0 to start the season, the first time since 2008. … UK came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 3 in the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 57.0 yards a game on the ground. … The Wildcats have 14 players on their roster from Florida. The Gators have only one player from Kentucky, safety Garrett Stephens, a walk-on from Louisville. … UK wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas is a Gainesville native and former Buchholz High School standout. Thomas played his college ball at Miami, where he was teammates with UF defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. UK coach Mark Stoops was the defensive backs coach for Shannon in 2001-03 when Shannon was the head coach at Miami. … UK place-kicker Austin MacGinnis came into Saturday’s game needing just 23 points to become the school’s all-time leading scorer. … CJ Henderson is the only true freshman in UF history to have pick-sixes in back-to-back games. He is the only Gator to accomplish that feat in records dating back to 1965. … Notre Dame has the nation’s longest winning streak against opponent in consecutive years. The Irish have beaten Navy 43 consecutive times (1964-2006).

13 COMMENTS

  1. Please play Toney and Davis most of the time. They are difference makers and will open up the offense for everyone else. And Del Rio is clearly more prepared to play the QB position right now than Franks. Franks is a deer with headlights shinning in his face on the field. His field vision is not SEC caliber right now. That is clear.

  2. At some point Toney will throw out of the wildcat QB position. If the flaws and growing pains of the other QBs continues don’t be surprised to see Toney as the Gators QB during the later stages of the season. Another possibility is that he could be part of a two QB approach while sometimes also playing WR. If this is what it takes to win I can see Coach Mac adjusting his philosophy to suit this year’s personnel.

    • Mikey. They are young but talented in the secondary. They were also missing Johnson and Joseph (and two other LBs suspended) at linebacker. And the defense helped the team come back with those big stops in the fourth quarter. But Zuinga’s roughing of the QB almost cost them the game. Thank goodness the Kentucky guard could not stop Bryan without holding him. Go Gators.

  3. The Positives: The OL did a much better job in this game, and improved some from Michigan to the UT game. Getting a total of 186 yards on the ground @ Uk was a good showing. OTOH, even though Uk’s best overall team talent is along their DL, they haven’t haven’t really played anyone until UF (S. Miss, E. Kentucky, USCe), but I won’t take from their offort last night since the UK D was blitzing almost every down and throwing different look after different look at them. They did a good job regardless.

    As I said would happen, Maik Davis has turned into who may possibly be the best RB we’ve had since Fred Taylor. Toney continues to “wow” us with his feats of athleticism and the coaches should game-plan him touching the ball AT LEAST a dozen times a game.

    I like watching Freddie Swain getting into the act last night too. Franks picking up that Uk D flaw on 4th and 3 was encouraging imo. I think he just got a “little” rattled in the second half, but he did a good job overall.

    What I was impressed most about Franks is that he was the #1 biggest cheerleader on the sidelines even after del Rio replaced him. That’s a TEAM player.

    We outgained and out-played UK in the fourth quarter and put a total of 4 TD’s on the board in this game.

  4. The Negatives: This team seems to have no real identity, and neither does our coaching staff. The coaching staff seems to be “ad-libbing” everything they’re doing, especially on offense. We try to establish a run-game, and then panic down by 7 in the third quarter and abandon the run. When we balanced it out again in the fourth quarter we got two scores to win the game.

    The defense is still young and we are hurting on the depth front because of the suspensions. We need that depth, especially at LB. The suspended players who will get charged with misdemeanors should be allowed to play again after missing three games. That’s a fair suspension imo. The ones hit with felonies should be dismissed asap.

    Nussmeier and Mac seem afraid to allow Franks to throw downfield where they asked Del Rio to do several times. I like having Luke right behind Filipe’ if he gets rattled. It’s a good combo imo.

    Our offense’s lack of an identity is solely on Nussmeier. he’s all over the place calling the offense, and still appears to be confused himself against shifting and changing defensive formations. I still believe he should be fired on the spot. He’s holding this offense back.

    This UK game should have never been close imo. This wasn’t a world-beater UK team, and although I think they were playing on raw emotion and way above their heads last night, this game should have been a comfortable 14= win by UF.

    We need an identity and a plan to what we’re doing each week.