Gators coach Dan Mullen screamed through his neck gaiter at defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
If such a scene doesn’t encapsulate this season for Florida football, what does? One coach donned a non-UF-approved face covering, while the other wore no mask at all, providing a painful view of his inept defensive play-calling.
Had the thin piece of orange-and-blue fabric not covered his mouth, you’d have seen Mullen spit fire. The head coach became more and more animated with each lowkey response from Grantham. Mullen met every retort from his struggling coordinator with a firm chopping gesture, as if motioning for him to cut it out, and even more heat.
UF pulled through for a 34-10 win over Kentucky on Saturday despite first-half defensive struggles.
The Wildcats dominated time of possession in the first half. UK exhausted an already floundering Gators defense down for over 23 minutes, while UF managed a measly 6:13 with the ball.
UK’s offense, which was last in the SEC in yards per game but fourth in the conference in rushing, predictably ran all over UF’s defense. The Wildcats racked up 126 rushing yards to Florida’s 31. They went 2-2 on fourth down and tallied 13 total first downs within the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game. All in the first half. Hence, Mullen’s visible frustration with Todd “I've had top-10 defenses at multiple places” Grantham.
“I think you get after it just having the different discussions, competitive people,” Mullen said about the interaction with Grantham.
Luckily for the Gators, when their offense got on the field, it made plays. Aside from two fumbles by wide receiver Justin Shorter and Nay’Quan Wright, Florida’s offense played well. Kyle Pitts’ return after missing two games while recovering from a concussion and nose surgery saw Kyle-squared’s resurgence. The tandem put up 99 yards and three touchdowns.
“Kyle (Pitts) is a phenomenal athlete and tight end,” Trask said. “He causes a lot of mismatches for the defense, you know, causes a lot of chaos in the backend when they try to figure out how to guard him."
Kadarius Toney also found the endzone for Florida when he carried a UK punt 50 yards to the house.
UF’s offense was aided in the second half by seven defensive Kentucky penalties for 69 yards. With only six minutes of possession in the first half, Florida’s two touchdowns marked the team’s lowest-scoring first half of the season. The previous low was 17 points against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, last week.
Trask and his brigade responded with 17 points in the third quarter alone. They tallied 20 total in the second half en route to their lowest-scoring game of 2020.
There were some defensive bright spots on Saturday, however. The Gators accrued two sacks, and a quarterback hurry by Brenton Cox Jr. helped linebacker Mohamoud Diabate secure a 14-yard interception that nestled his offense comfortably into the red zone. Shawn Davis and Tre’vez Johnson each snagged interceptions of their own fourth quarter.
“I mean, we play all four quarters, you’re going to have to play all four quarters versus us,” Johnson said. “So, just going into the second half, we knew we had to come out with more energy than we did in the first half.”
The Gators return to the gridiron next Saturday, Dec. 5, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where they’ll take on the Volunteers in their own backyard.
Tight end Kyle Pitts caught three touchdown passes in his first game back since suffering from a concussion against Georgia on Nov. 7.
Payton is a sophomore journalism major from Jacksonville, Florida. She is The Alligator's Spring 2021 digital managing editor. Her previous roles include softball beat writer, football beat writer and online sports editor. Payton's home in Jackson