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3 takeaways from Gators’ loss to Kentucky

NCAA football, Florida football, Kentucky football, Anthony Richardson

Following last week’s surprise victory over formerly No. 7 Utah, No. 12 Florida football was knocked off its pedestal. In Week 2, the Gators suffered their first conference loss of the season, falling 26-16 at home to the Kentucky Wildcats.

Following a 16-13 halftime lead, the Florida Gators’ second-quarter meltdown proved costly in their eventual defeat to Kentucky in The Swamp on Saturday night.

In the aftermath of this unexpected loss, here are three takeaways from Florida football’s collapse against Kentucky.

3. Injuries hit some starters

The Gators lost a starter on both sides of the ball. Right tackle Michael Tarquin was injured in the first half and linebacker Ventrell Miller was injured in the fourth quarter.

Redshirt freshman Austin Barber took Tarquin’s spot at right tackle, while redshirt freshman Jeremiah Williams saw his role at inside linebacker expand alongside LB Amari Burney. True freshman Shemar James took Miller’s place.

The starters were definitely missed by the Gators’ offensive line and linebacker groups. Kentucky was able to improve its pressure on Richardson and limit his ability to run. Florida football’s run defense also became a sore spot. It allowed 107 yards in the second half, including 57 on 12 attempts in the fourth quarter. This gave the Wildcats control of the game clock.

2. Florida football’s D was solid

Florida football supporters have been vocal about the team’s defense in recent years. However, the Gators’ defense was not the reason the squad fell against Kentucky.

For the majority of the night, the Gators applied constant pressure on Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. This finally led to an interception.

Although Florida’s secondary was spotty, the front seven helped limit Levis to 202 yards passing (13-of-24) and an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. The Wildcats ended with 109 running yards but required 37 carries to get there, averaging less than three yards per carry.

If this game has shown us anything, it’s that the defense is capable of more than simply holding its own. That might be important moving forward. It should also relieve some of the strain on Richardson, who is still finding his stride in the new system.

1. Anthony Richardson gets grounded

Florida football QB Anthony Richardson struggled against Kentucky after scoring three touchdowns against Utah. He completed 14-of-35 passes for 143 yards and two interceptions.

As bad as his accuracy was (40 percent), he also made dubious judgments when he dropped back to throw. Both interceptions were mind-boggling, particularly the pick-six he threw as Florida was driving late in the third quarter, with the score tied 16-16. Not only did the score put the Wildcats ahead for good, but it was also the Gators’ last drive of the game that went more than 21 yards.

Richardson’s legs were also ineffective. He went from 104 running yards against the Utes to a paltry four yards on six runs on Saturday night. He was also sacked once.

Does this sink his chances to contend for the Heisman trophy? Very likely.