Gators notebook: Offense had its struggles too against UK
Florida’s inconsistent and big-play prone defense has received most of the criticism this season, and it was more of the same Saturday against Kentucky, especially in a lackluster first half where the Gators could not get the ball away from a ball-control offense.
But the Florida offense also was less than stellar Saturday. That was the word from head coach Dan Mullen on Monday.
“I don’t think we were very efficient offensively,” he said. “We didn’t hit any of our goals offensively that we had going into the game, so I don’t think we played very well. I don’t think we played at a very high level and weren’t very efficient.
“You look at the drives, you end up with two punts, a missed field goal and two turnovers. That’s not very good offensively. We want to get back to just having a consistent, efficient offense.”
Quarterback Kyle Trask threw three touchdown passes, but was held to less than 300 yards passing for only the second time this season. And other than a 38-yard run by Dameon Pierce in the second half, the Gators did not generate much on the ground.
Trask said UK deserves some credit for the offense’s lack of consistent efficiency.
“Kentucky did a great job of trying to keep our explosive plays to a minimum and they had a great game plan,” he said. “They did a great job executing their game plan, in the first half especially, kind of keeping the ball out of our hands and trying to run down the clock. But at the same time, we’ve just got to overcome those things and be more efficient as an offense, putting the maximum amount of points that we can up while we have the ball in our hands.”
UK did what other opposing defenses have been doing since earlier in the season, dropping seven and eight players into pass coverage.
“Obviously, we like to throw the ball a lot and mix it up,” Trask said. “We’ve been seeing a lot of drop-eight looks trying to slow us down and limit those explosive plays that we’re capable of with all of our weapons on offense. There’s ways to beat it and we’ve just got to be more efficient as an offense to overcome those things and be more effective in the end.”
The Gators came out of the win over UK with no new injuries to report. And there’s a chance an injured player will return this week, Mullen said.
“We got out of that last game healthy, fortunately,” he said. “We’re hoping (redshirt freshman wide receiver) Trent Whittemore can make it back this week (from broken ribs and a collapsed lung) if he progresses. Hopefully, we get him back and everything else is kind of status quo.”
Fresh in battle-weary times
It’s been a long, physical haul going from the start of preseason camp last summer to where the Gators are now — in December with eight games played and at least two more to go. Despite the grind, the players have remained fresh, quarterback Kyle Trask said.
“I think it’s the coaches,” he said. They do a great job of taking care of our bodies mentally and physically as the season progresses. Obviously, they’ve been here before, they’ve been on championship teams, they know what it takes to get things like that done.
“They take care of our bodies and make sure we’re fresh and not beat up on Saturdays, even if that means taking a little bit of the workload off our bodies in practice to give us fresh legs on Saturday.
“The coaches have been here before. They know what to do and how to take care of us. They do a great job of it.”
SEC honors Toney
Senior wide receiver Kadarius Toney was named the SEC co-special teams player of the week by the league Monday for his performance in Saturday’s win over Kentucky.
Toney had a game-changing 50-yard punt return for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first that gave the Gators a 14-10 lead and helped propel UF to a 34-10 victory.
The Gators were trailing 10-7 and really struggling against the Wildcats before Toney’s return turned the game in Florida’s favor.
Toney shares the co-special teams honor with Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller, who became the first woman to play in a college football game for a Power 5 school on Saturday.