Everything Billy Napier said after his Florida Gators got run over by Kentucky football

Kentucky football scored a third consecutive win over Florida on Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field, as the Wildcats toppled the No. 22-ranked Gators 33-14.

A major catalyst for the win was a historic rushing performance by UK running back Ray Davis, who totaled 280 yards on the ground along with three rushing scores and a receiving touchdown.

Postgame, Florida head coach Billy Napier met with the media to discuss his team’s porous run defense and all-around lackluster showing in Lexington.

Here’s everything Napier said after suffering defeat at the hands of Kentucky.

Opening statement:

Not a lot of positives to talk about today. Hats off to Kentucky and Coach (Mark) Stoops. They were ready to play. They flat out beat us, they were the more physical team, they controlled the line of scrimmage, the edges of the formations. They protected their quarterback. We did not win the line of scrimmage or the edges, and they affected our quarterback.

We had a handful of penalties, obviously, were a factor, the early turnover was a factor. And just fundamentally, very disappointed in our team. I told the players, I know one way to do this and that’s to take complete ownership of it. I think for me personally, as a leader, I have to do a better job for our team, in all ways.

Ultimately, that’s my job, to have our football team ready to play. And I’m going to take ownership of that because I know what we’re capable of. I do believe that we had a good week. I do believe that we were in the right frame of mind. But when the ball got put down, we didn’t execute. We weren’t physically ready. And certainly the way the game went early, it got out of hand. We did our best to try and fight and get back in it, but hats off to Kentucky.

All parts of the game, (Kentucky) was more effective. ... Kentucky deserved to win today, the Gators did not. And that’s my responsibility. ... Overall, we’ve got work to do to improve and one thing I do really believe in is I believe in that group of kids in there. I think they want to have success. I think they’ve done a lot of quality work. I do think that these types of experiences present opportunity and I’m hopeful that this group, they’ll be some good things to come from this, but we’ve got to take a good look in the mirror from an overall, operation here and do a better job for the players. ...

On if the coaching staff had Florida ready to play this week:

I do think that we had a good week. I think that they beat us up pretty good. Anytime a team rushes for 300-plus and they hold you to under 100, ultimately that’s where the game was won today: Line of scrimmage, edges, tackling, fundamentals, missed fits and runs. ...

On the leaping penalty that extended a Kentucky drive and led to a touchdown in the first half:

It’s disappointing because we had a similar situation in last week’s game. We covered it thoroughly throughout the week. We actually sent a play from last week’s game to the SEC, talked about the exact rule, how it’s interpreted, showed the clip at the (team) meeting.

I think we’ve just got a young player out there, who made a poor decision. And he knows he made a mistake. I do think that was a pivotal moment in the game. It’s still a close game, we’re off the field, we’re going to get (the ball) at midfield, we’re going to get a short field, for probably the first time the whole day. And then we put them back out there and they score a touchdown off that possession.

On the physicality of the Florida program under him:

Anybody that knows me, knows that that game right there is going to be hard on me. Just in terms of who I want to be, the brand of football that I want to play. ...

On the Florida defense’s poor showing:

I think it will be very fundamental (on film). I think we know, we understand exactly what happened. We’ve got to strike blockers, we’ve got to play with better eye discipline, we’ve got to fit our gaps and when given an opportunity we’ve got to get the runner on the ground. There’s numerous times throughout today where we did not do that.

We played better defense. ... When challenges are ahead. Today was a good example of that. Good cup of humble pie. Good slice of humble pie. Ultimately, we’ve got to play with better urgency. We’ve got to strike blockers. We’ve got to fit runs. And when given the opportunity we’ve got to get the runner on the ground.

Three hundred-plus on the ground. That’s not who we are, that’s not who we want to be. We’re going to get it fixed.

On what bothers or concerns him most about the game:

Physicality. We’ve gotten beat around here, but I don’t know if we’ve been beat up like that. Got to take ownership of that. Much like I said before, give some credit to Kentucky. That’s exactly what I told the team. I said, “Look, they beat us. You’ve got to look in the mirror.”

And we had our opportunities out there today. So that’s what I would say. Sometimes you come in here (for a press conference) and you feel like you went toe-to-toe, you played the brand of football that you want to play and maybe execution was the issue, but they got after us, both lines of scrimmage. ... We’ve done it to other people, and I think anybody that knows me knows that’s going to be the most disappointing thing about the game for me.

On the sense of urgency from Florida down two scores in the fourth quarter, especially after a sack ended a short drive:

The sack was a big play. We get it on a long field, we get a first down and get it out there in kind of the 20-30 range. ... The challenging thing about that is from an analytics standpoint it was a go-for-it, all-go situation. So the last thing you want to do is have a negative play.

It’s a two-score game for a lot of the second half to some degree. I think once the game became about time, we played with more tempo and urgency.

On evaluating his own play calling following a loss like this one:

I think I remember them all. I think between possessions, we know what happened. I think sometimes you’ve got to remain objective. ... Evaluate everything that we do. What caused the issues? Sometimes it may be design. Sometimes it’s communication. Sometimes it’s undisciplined penalties. Sometimes it’s fundamentals and techniques. I think there’s lots of things that contribute to when you don’t have success in this game.

We’ve got a great group of people that work hard to do that, and we certainly weren’t good enough today.

On the perception about him as a coach with a conservative style:

Let’s go back to the first third down of the game: We called an outside zone that popped for a first down on a third-and-long (play was called back for a penalty). When they work they pat you on the back. When they don’t work they criticize you, right? What we’ve got to do and is we’ve got to do our job for the players. Just what’s important to them.

It’s important to me that we do our best for the players and our staff. When you don’t have success, you deserve criticism. We deserve every bit of criticism we’re going to get for this game, that’s part of it. But also, my responsibility is to the players, to the staff. Ultimately that’s what I think about it.

I think there’s always good and bad. Some of it’s well deserved. Some of it, maybe they don’t quite know what they’re talking about. It’s probably a mixed bag.

On the health status of Florida WR Caleb Douglas:

Caleb is injured. He will be out for a significant chunk of time. He’s got a lower leg injury. I think it’s non-surgical, but it will be quite a bit of time.

On WR Eugene Wilson III, who traveled with the team but didn’t play:

We didn’t feel good about putting him out there. We were hopeful that he would be ready, (had) some contact throughout the week, but after evaluating him in pregame, it wasn’t in his best interest, as much as maybe he wanted to go, we made the decision that he wasn’t ready.

Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier said after Saturday’s loss at Kentucky: “They flat out beat us, they were the more physical team.” Brian Simms/
Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier said after Saturday’s loss at Kentucky: “They flat out beat us, they were the more physical team.” Brian Simms/

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