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September 28, 2013
Instant Analysis: Florida grinds through Kentucky
No. 20 Florida (3-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) rumbled through Lexington, Ky., Saturday night and left with its 27th consecutive victory against the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC). It was another meticulous showcase of a grinding offense and a defense imposing its physicality on an offense that had goals of executing an up-tempo game plan. Instant Analysis takes a look at the Gators' 24-7 win.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: After being sacked twice by Dante Fowler Jr. in the same drive, UK quarterback Maxwell Smith sailed a fourth-and-28 pass down the sideline incomplete. It had previously been Kentucky's last chance to get within two scores of Florida. The Gators took over with 4:14 remaining and iced the game.
HE STOLE THE SHOW: Even on Tyler Murphy's only bad play of the night, he saved the day. In his first career start, Murphy went 15 of 18 for 156 yards and one touchdown. He added 36 yards and another touchdown on the ground. His first incompletion was an errant throw intended for Matt Jones intercepted by Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest. Murphy immediately got an angle on Forrest and saved what would have been a pick-six with a diving tackle.
THE STAT DOESN'T LIE: Florida's biggest advantage Saturday night was its run game against Kentucky's run defense, which ranks No. 13 in the SEC. The Gators outrushed the Wildcats 246-48, led by Jones' first career 100-yard game. The sophomore had 28 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown. Florida had previously averaged just shy of 200 yards rushing per game.
WHAT A PLAY: A long Jones run might have taken the prize had it not been for a Quinton Dunbar touchdown-saving tackle. Instead, we'll give the honor to freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who made an acrobatic interception in the corner of the end zone on a deep ball by Smith. Hargreaves continues to be Florida's most productive corner and has three interceptions in four games.
THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: The offensive concern for Florida coming in was how its tackles would handle Kentucky's edge rushers. Turns out the real issue was Kentucky's inability to match the physicality and size of Florida's offensive line in its front seven. The Wildcats had to pull their more explosive players and replace them with linebackers and linemen who could match up size-wise and play the Gators' blocks. That opened the opportunity for plays on the perimeter, which Florida took advantage of.