Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football: Three thoughts from the smackdown at Florida

In addition to my column, three more quick things from Kentucky’s 45-7 thumping at Florida:

1. Hangover from Southern Miss?

The coaches and players denied it on Saturday, you had to wonder if there was some carryover from Kentucky’s 44-35 loss to Southern Miss last week. After all, UK held a commanding 35-10 lead in the season opener only to find a trap door and lose 44-35. Surely, that was a hard loss to shake off.

Head coach Mark Stoops wouldn’t use that as an excuse. He said his team had a good week of practice — a familiar refrain. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said he was excited to see how his guys would respond given the way they practiced last week.

But on Kentucky’s first offensive play, quarterback Drew Barker was sacked and it seemed to go downhill from there. Florida smartly used the running game to grind out chunks of yardage, its superior offensive line getting good push against UK’s defensive front. It snowballed from there.

2. Is UK trying to do too much?

Gran raised that possibility after the game. In his first year running the UK attack, Gran said one of the things he will look at this week is whether he is giving his guys too much to do? Can they handle it? Does the personnel fit what he’s trying to do?

Gran said he had a similar slow start when he was the first-year offensive coordinator at Cincinnati. Halfway through that year, Gran got it turned around and over the past two years, the Bearcats were one of the most productive offenses in the country.

You have to wonder about overload on the defensive side. After several blown coverages in the loss to Southern Miss, similar miscues happened Saturday against Florida. The Gators hit a 78-yard TD when it caught UK in single coverage. A couple of other times, Florida receivers were wide open against what appeared to be missed assignments in the UK secondary.

3. Where does Kentucky go from here?

It’s back to the drawing board before New Mexico State comes to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. There will be plenty of seats and parking available for the non-conference game. After all, this is UK’s first 0-2 start since 1996, which turned out to be Bill Curry’s final season.

There are 10 games left. And let’s be honest, the Cats were a 14-point underdog to Florida on Saturday. Precious few put this in the pre-season win column for the Cats. Kentucky has now lost 30 straight to Florida.

The season is still going to come down to four games. New Mexico State and Austin Peay should be wins. Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisville, on paper, look like losses.

That leaves South Carolin (Sept. 24), Vanderbilt (Oct. 8), Mississippi State (Oct. 16) and at Missouri (Oct. 29). UK should e competitive in all four. If Kentucky doesn’t pull off an upset, it will have to win all four to reach a bowl game. The season boils down to that.

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