University of Florida

Florida coach Dan Mullen explains what went wrong in Gators’ loss to Kentucky

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) runs past Florida defensive end Zachary Carter (17) and other defensive players for a 24-yard touchdown during Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Gainesville.
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) runs past Florida defensive end Zachary Carter (17) and other defensive players for a 24-yard touchdown during Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Gainesville. AP

Evan McPherson had the intention of sending the ball sailing through the yellow uprights and putting three points on the board to cut Florida’s deficit to eight points.

The play didn’t unfold as he and the Gators had hoped as the kick was ruled no good.

Seconds later, a replay showed something that sent every Gators fan into an uproar.

McPherson appeared to have made the 36-yard field goal, but SEC officials ruled it wide right.

The booing of the crowd bounced off every corner of the stadium when play resumed with no review.

It might not have made a huge difference for the outcome of the game either way, but it was just one of many things that went wrong in the Gators 27-16 loss at home to Kentucky on Saturday night.

The call seemed to deflate a Gators’ team that was losing more and more air as the game progressed.

Florida’s performance against Kentucky displayed a clearer picture of where the team is, something that was ambiguous in its lopsided season-opening victory against Charleston Southern.

It showed just how far first-year coach Dan Mullen has to go in rebuilding a program that went 4-7 last year.

Poor offensive line play, missed tackles on defense and a lack of physicality pushed the Gators farther and farther behind in the home loss.

“I think our physicality is going to be something this team — and we’ve talked about it constantly — they have to continue to work on,” Mullen said after the game. “And it starts in practice.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks looked comfortable early on, though he missed a few reads. A lot of his struggles were perpetuated by little help from the guys protecting him.

Still, the redshirt sophomore threw two touchdown passes and finished 17-38 for 232 yards with one interception.

“A big part of the quarterback position is decision making. I don’t think he really made many poor decisions tonight,” Mullen said of his quarterback. “One bad throw on the interception, hung it back on the inside a little bit.”

But Franks showed some confidence when it counted. He made some tough throws for big third down conversions throughout the game.

“There’s a bunch of things that a bunch of guys could’ve done better. And that’s what the coaches are there for. They’ll tell me if I did a good job or not, and I’ll listen to them,” Franks said.

A lack of depth ultimately doomed the Gators’ defense.

Sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the game, and the team was already without linebacker David Reese, who has been out with an ankle injury.

“Obviously depth in the secondary is a little bit of a concern for us,” Mullen said. “That’s a really thin spot for us to start with coming into the season.”

The Gators didn’t show much improvement in tackling either, which was something they struggled with last week.

Failure to wrap guys up led to multiple big runs for the Wildcats, especially quarterback Terry Wilson and running back Benny Snell. They combined for 280 of Kentucky’s 303 rushing yards.

“The two big things are going to be missed tackles and they’re a good running football team,” Mullen said. “They had good players, but when you miss tackles and allow them to continually move the chains that’s hard.”

And as far as Florida’s 31-game winning streak against the Wildcats that came to an end on Saturday night, Mullen still felt it had no relevance.

“I mean it ended. The streak had nothing to do with tonight’s game. It has nothing to do with next week’s game. It happens, it’s sports,” he said. “It’s a tough loss for us. We have to find a way to get better and play next week. That’s how all my thoughts are.”

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