UK Football: Florida's speed again a problem for Wildcats
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said his team needs to play much better on both sides of the ball Saturday to contain a Florida team which is blessed with speed all over the field and is coming off a win over Tennessee. (Clay Jackson)
“When you think of Florida, you always think of a speed type team so we know we have to try and slow it down and do everything we can to contain them to get the win,” said Neloms of Saturday night’s game. “They will clearly be the best offensive team we have faced. They try to hand the ball off a lot more this year. They are a lot different from what they used to be, but they still do a lot of things and they are still very, very fast.”
“All of us have heard the term 'speed kills.' I know that's one of the cliches. Which one is overrated? It's not overrated this week. They got the type of speed that can hurt you,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. “They have probably the fastest guy in the world (running back Jeff Demps). They got probably the second-fastest guy (Chris Rainey) in the world. (Former coach) Urban (Meyer) built this team. He said he wanted to be the fastest team in the country and they probably are.
“We've got to make sure when we get an opportunity to get our hands on them, we've got to wrap them up and get a chance to tackle them, we have to gang tackle, get off blocks and get to those fast guys also.”
Rainey had 108 yards rushing, including an 83-yard touchdown run, and 104 yards receiving in a win over Tennessee last week. Versatile Trey Burton had a school-record six touchdowns against Kentucky last year and quarterback John Brantley also threw for 248 yards and a score in the 48-14 victory, Florida’s 24th straight over UK. The closest game in the last five years was Florida’s 48-37 win in 2007.
Phillips says the Gators and new coach Will Muschamp, a former assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky, are using Burton differently this season even though he doesn’t take direct snaps like he did last year when he shredded UK’s goal line defense.
“They're more of a conventional offense. They're not as much gun, read, option, those things. They're not doing those things they did with him last year. They're getting the balls in the hands of some of those world-class sprinters we were talking about,” Phillips said.
New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, the former Notre Dame coach and former offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, has Florida averaging 37 points per game and over 200 yards rushing and passing.
“Those guys are coming in here sky high after beating Tennessee. We have to get our guys back up and ready to compete (after losing to Louisville),” Phillips said. “Charlie does a good job game planning and getting the ball in hands of guys who can make plays for him. You have to be up on the screen game. They did a good job screening off every play-action (pass). They are getting the ball in the hands of their playmakers.
“You see all the schemes on the field. There is nothing new that Charlie does. Some of the things he did at New England and also at Notre Dame. The thing is now he has more playmakers. Some would say not as many as New England, but he probably does. He has two of the fastest guys in college football and a quarterback who is really hot right now.”
Rainey has rushed for 306 yards — and averages 6.4 yards per play — and two scores. Demps has rushed for 163 yards — and averages 6.8 yards per try — and two scores. Brantley is 47-for-72 passing for 637 yards and three scores. Rainey and Demps have a combined 19 catches for 282 yards and two scores by Rainey.
The bad news for Kentucky is that the Gators (3-0) have been just as good defensively. They are allowing 8.7 points per game and giving up 30.7 yards rushing — first in the country — and 178.7 yards passing per game. Last week Louisville had 14 tackles for loss, including six quarterback sacks.
Kentucky’s struggling offense ran for just 35 yards against Louisville last week and forced quarterback Morgan Newton to throw 41 times. Junior E.J. Fields, who didn’t have a catch coming into the game, caught seven against Louisville for 57 yards, including his first touchdown. Six of Fields’ seven receptions went for first downs, and four of those were on third down. Fields’ only catch that didn’t go for a first down was his fourth-quarter touchdown catch.
“We have to take our shots on offense, running the ball when they give it to us,” Phillips said. “They're better on defense than they have been. You can look at the statistics and see. We talked about the team speed. We've got to play cleaner than we've played to have an opportunity to beat these guys.”
Florida’s special teams could be a problem, too. Rainey has five career kick returns for touchdowns and the Gators have blocked two kicks — Louisville blocked a UK¿punt last week — and one punt return for a score.
“They look the same every year. They are always fast and always physical,” Phillips said. “It’s a typical Florida team.”
Those typical Florida teams have dominated UK¿for many of the wins in the current 24-year streak, but Phillips doesn’t want his underdog Cats thinking they have to play perfect to win.
“It's hard to go out and play perfect. If you ask Florida last week did they play perfect, no, they didn't play perfect, but they won the game,” Phillips said. “I just think you have to take advantage of opportunities that are given to you. Can't have drops. Can't have turnovers. You can't have 14 minus yard plays. You can allow a couple, but you can't allow 14 of them and have a chance to win. I don't think you have to play perfect, but you have to play smart.”