Grading the Florida Gators' performance vs. Kentucky: Offense barely passes in Week 2

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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Gainesville Sun sports columnist David Whitley hands out unit grades for the Florida Gators' Southeastern Conference opener Saturday vs. the Kentucky Wildcats, a 26-16 loss at home.

Offense: D

It was no secret that Kentucky wanted to make Anthony Richardson beat them with his arm. Sure enough, the Gators couldn’t establish a running game and Richardson’s inexperience showed. A slow start on the first drive (1 for 4) shook his confidence, and the Gators don’t have receivers that can bail out a struggling QB.

They had trouble getting open, and Richardson started forcing the ball. On his first interception, Richardson didn’t even see linebacker Jordan Wright swooping in as he attempted a quick sideline pass to Nay’Quan Wright. The second interception was a miscommunication with Wright that resulted in a 65-yard pick six.

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Feel free to second guess Billy Napier’s play calling. He twice went for it on fourth down with the ball inside UF’s territory. The way Mark Stoops’ defense was playing, punting and hoping for a turnover might have been a better gamble.

Defense: B minus

Florida CB Jalen Kimber puts pressure on Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Sept. 10, 2022.

Roaring start, finished on fumes. Florida exploited Kentucky’s inexperienced offensive line and thin running back corps in the first half. The Gators hounded Will Levis and held the Wildcats to minus-37 yards rushing. Most of that negative carnage came from sacking Levis three times. UF’s lone gaffe was a 55-yard TD pass, though cornerback Jalen Kimber was draped all over Dane Key, who outjumped him for the ball.

In the second half, the Wildcats line grew up fast or the Gators wore down or both. It didn’t help that Ventrell Miller went out with a leg injury. The Wildcats' numbers weren’t huge (107 yards rushing and 51 passing), but they were more than enough on a night when Florida’s offense spinning its wheels and putting the defense in bad spots.

Special Teams: B

Gators kicker Adam Mihalek (49) in the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats on Sept. 10, 2022.

The Gators had a better night of it in this department than Kentucky, which had two bad snaps that resulted in a safety and a botched extra point.

If there was any suspense over who Florida’s kicker is, it ended Saturday night. The Gators attempted their first field goal of the season, and Adam Mihalek nailed a 39-yarder. He came back with a 50-yarder. Most figured this year’s kicker would be heralded freshman Trey Smack. But Mihalek, a former walk-on, has obviously won the job.

Punter Jeremy Crawshaw was strong, averaging 47.4 yards on five kicks. Only two were returned for a measly eight yards. The Gators’ return game didn’t do much, though the kickoff team got its third holding penalty in two games.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley.

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