I wanted to wait a little longer for this edition of “Five Takeaways,” mainly because it’s taken a few days for most of our heart rates to return to normal following the Gators’ come-from-behind 28-27 win over Kentucky.
Anyway, here are the five main things I took away from the game that Kentucky gave away:
Florida may not be a good football team, but they’re a resilient one
I’ll be honest. When Kentucky went up by two scores in the fourth quarter and Florida replaced Feleipe Franks with former starter Luke Del Rio, I truly believed, bar none, that the Gators were headed for a loss. The fact that they won a game in which they trailed 27-14 and benched their starting quarterback- who, mind you, was one week removed from securing a spot in Gator lore with a walk off 63 yard touchdown pass- speaks volumes about the kind of stuff this team is made of. This team still has a lot of improvements to make if it wants to compete for a third straight SEC East title, but the Gators’ ability to finish strong in back to back weeks is an encouraging sign.
Kadarius Toney is Florida’s most dangerous weapon since Percy Harvin
Ever since Andre Debose failed to live up to the Percy Harvin comparisons he drew from his high school tape, I’ve wondered if the Gators would ever find another Percy-esque game changer. Well, only three games into Kadarius Toney’s career and and he’s proven to be the kind of terror for opposing defenses that the Gators haven’t had since Harvin. Oh, and he can throw the ball, too. Gator football box scores only go back so far, but I’m willing to bet Toney is the first guy in a long time to accumulate 35 or more passing, rushing and receiving yards in the same game.
Florida’s QB situation is as muddy as it’s ever been since Tim Tebow left
You know the old saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, then you don’t have one?” Smooth as Luke Del Rio was in relief work, I’m not sure that was anything more than a temporary solution to a problem that’s spanned nearly a decade. And though the Gators own a tidy 6-1 record in games in which he participated, we can’t be sure that he won’t merit getting yanked against Vanderbilt, either. And then what happens? Does Florida go back to Franks? Do they give Malik Zaire a second shot? Do they dare pull the redshirt off of Jake Allen and give him a trial run? (Before you totally dismiss that, it worked out well for South Carolina last year, and Allen has more potential than Jake Bentley.) Time will tell.
Florida’s defense may be a lot worse than we thought
No realistic Gator fan honestly thought that Florida’s defense would remain at the elite level it was at last year with so many key players leaving, but I’m not sure anybody thought it would be this bad. And again, if it’s going to be a bend-but-don’t-break defense, it simply cannot break in crunch time. One week after allowing 17 fourth quarter points and touchdown drives of 75 and 80 yards on two and five plays, respectively, Florida allowed Kentucky to drive into range for the winning field goal with :43 showing on the clock. Only because of a holding penalty that cost the Cats 25 yards did the Gators survive this game, and that was only after this defense was responsible for a nearly fatal roughing the passer penalty and a 4th and 11 conversion. There’s still a long way to go this season, but this defense has not been at the level it needs to be for Florida to compete for championships to this point.
31 straight? Really?
Consider: the last time Kentucky beat Florida, Ronald Reagan was President. That’s because Kentucky has not beaten Florida since 1986, losing in each of the succeeding 31 years to the Gators. My parents were five years away from meeting when this streak began. How the hell does this happen? It’s not uncommon to see one team reel off five, six, seven in a row or so as college football goes in cycles… but thirty one consecutive wins???