Abolverdi's Answers: UK capitalizes on Jones pick, snaps Florida's streak of 400-yard games

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Florida quarterback Emory Jones runs upfield during the second half Saturday against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

Before every Florida game, Sun college football beat writer Zach Abolverdi comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here's Week 5 after the Gators' 20-13 loss at Kentucky:

How will Emory Jones & Co. fare against another top-20 defense?

In a matchup between the nation’s ninth-ranked offense (UF, 540.8 YPG) and ninth-ranked defense (UK, 260.0 YAPG), Kentucky proved to be the more elite unit. The Wildcats held UF to its fewest points (13) during the Dan Mullen era and snapped his streak of 14 consecutive games with 400-plus yards, which led the FBS. Florida gained less total yards (382) vs. UK than Missouri (398) and finished with the same rushing total as Chattanooga (171). The Gators, who ranked third nationally at 332.5 rushing yards per game, failed to eclipse 200 yards on the ground for the first time this year.

What impact does backup Anthony Richardson have in his return?

After providing a spark on offense against FAU and USF, backup quarterback Anthony Richardson had little impact at Kentucky in his first game back from a hamstring injury. Starter Emory Jones played the majority of the night and all of the fourth quarter, despite throwing an interception and failing to score in the red zone. Richardson carried the ball five times for 25 yards and completed his lone pass attempt for eight yards, but never had a whole drive to himself. For what it’s worth, Richardson rotated with Jones on two possessions in the first half and the Gators scored on both of them. 

Takeaways: No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats stop No. 9 Florida Gators

Can UF limit big plays from Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Wan’Dale Robinson?

The Wildcats weren’t able to do a lot offensively Saturday, but the SEC leaders in receiving yards (Wan’Dale Robinson) and rushing yards (Chris Rodriguez Jr.) made their mark. Robinson made one of the top plays of the game with his 41-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first quarter, tying the game at 7. He also made a pair of 13-yard receptions for first downs and finished with four grabs for 65 yards. Rodriguez rushed for more yards against Florida than any back this season, carrying the ball 19 times for 99 yards (long of 16). He capitalized on Jones’ fourth-quarter pick with his nine-yard touchdown run. 

Are the Gators able to generate sacks on Wildcats QB Will Levis?

The Gators ranked No. 9 nationally in sacks (15) entering Saturday’s game, and maintained their top-10 standing with two more sacks against Kentucky. After tackling Rodriguez on a second-down run, defensive end Zachary Carter sacked quarterback Levis on third-and-4 to get off the field. Carter is now tied for third nationally with 5.5 sacks and has surpassed his sack total from 2020 (5.0). Defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk also sacked Levis on second-and-7 at the end of the third quarter, which led to a turnover on downs two plays later. UF held Levis to 87 yards on seven of 17 passing. 

Does Florida win the turnover battle against a turnover-prone UK team? 

Both teams threw one interception apiece, but the Wildcats won the points-off-turnovers battle. Defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson picked off Levis in the third quarter and Florida’s offense took over at the UK 31. However, the unit wasn’t able to pick up a first down and Jace Christmann’s 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown. After Kentucky’s J.J. Weaver picked off Jones and returned it 20 yards to the UF 29, Levis moved the chains with his seven-yard scramble on third-and-2 and then Rodriguez capped off the drive.

—  Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at zabolverdi@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi

Up next

Who: Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-1 SEC) vs. No. 18 Florida (3-2, 1-2)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

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