Kyle Pitts picks up where he left off, which doesn't seem quite fair for the rest of the SEC
There’s a great scene in Rocky IV when the seemingly invincible Soviet champion Ivan Drago realizes he’s in the fight of life against the plucky Rocky.
“He’s not human,” an exhausted Drago says in his corner after yet another round where the Italian Stallion out of Philadelphia took powerful punch after punch. “He’s like a piece of iron.”
Drago was talking about Rocky’s toughness of course, but the “he’s not human” remark could have easily been about Florida’s sensational junior tight end, Kyle Pitts.
Pitts simply isn’t human on a football field.
It would appear the only to stop Pitts is to hit him illegally, which Georgia’s Lewis Cine did early in the Cocktail Party.
It certainly doesn’t appear he can be defended.
Returning from a 2 1/2 game hiatus after suffering a concussion and undergoing surgery following the Georgia game, Pitts showed no lingering effects of the injury. an around, over and through the Kentucky defense
Instead, Pitts ran behind, around, and over the Kentucky defense Saturday afternoon, catching 5 passes for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns in Florida’s 34-10 victory over the Wildcats.
Florida’s offense didn’t exactly struggle with Pitts out. Florida outscored Georgia 23-7, dropped 63 on a very good Arkansas defense and added 38 more against Vanderbilt without their junior star at tight end.
But they are an altogether different entity to defend with Pitts on the field.
That was evident early, when following a well-executed fake point Florida turned to the air and found Pitts behind the defense on a post to give the Gators an early lead.
Welcome back, Kyle Pitts. pic.twitter.com/1ZAmCwgUEL
— Neil W. Blackmon (@nwblackmon) November 28, 2020
One eye-opening thing about this score? Pitts outfoxes, and then outruns, Kelvin Joseph to the endzone. Joseph is one of the top 5 rated corners in college football in 2020, per Pro Football Focus. No matter– he has no chance against the likes of the Florida tight end.
Pitts wouldn’t catch another football in the fitrst half, a credit to a Kentucky defense that entered Saturday’s contest ranked 3rd in the SEC in defensive passing efficiency and passing yards allowed per attempt.
But come the second half, Pitts took over the game.
With Florida leading 14-10, the Gators turned to the junior on their first possession of the second half. It was a smart decision. First, Pitts bailed the team out when Kentucky appeared to have a wide receiver screen turned pass trick play snuffed out. Kentucky covered Jacob Copeland deep, forcing Kadarius Toney, who had caught the bubble screen and set to throw, to scramble. Seeing Toney in trouble, Pitts freed himself and waved his hands frantically until Toney saw him, allowing the Gators to turn a potentially disastrous failed trick play into a 12-yard gain and a first down.
Two plays later, on first and ten from the Kentucky 13, Trask found Pitts in single-coverage vs. Joseph in the corner. Rather than allow an easy score, Joseph pulled the big tight end down. It was a smart play by Joseph, but pass interference was called and Florida found itself with first and goal. One play later, Pitts ran a perfect goal-line post for 6.
Kyle Pitts snags his second TD reception of the game on a beautifully placed ball from Kyle Trask – Gators lead Kentucky 21-10 pic.twitter.com/UihwBMu127
— libgator (@lib_gator) November 28, 2020
Pitts wasn’t finished.
He added a 3rd touchdown later in the quarter, which tied him for the national lead in TD receptions — despite the fact that he’s missed nearly 11 quarters of the season.
That's Kyle Pitts' 11th TD, which is now tied for most in the country.
He's played 6 games.
— Nick de la Torre (@delatorre) November 28, 2020
Later, with Florida trying to salt the game away, Pitts added a 23-yard reception on a back shoulder one on one throw from Trask to set up a Florida field goal.
How good was Pitts Saturday and what does he mean to Florida?
With Pitts back on the field, the Gators’ pass offense finished the afternoon averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, a full 3 yards more than Kentucky had allowed entering the game. Florida’s passing success rate on the afternoon was a whopping 73%, a number LSU’s record-setting pass offense attained just 3 times in 15 football games a season ago. That’s also a full 10 points higher than Florida’s passing success rate without their junior tight end, and 22 points north of the national average. Florida’s not just a great offense with Kyle Pitts, they are an almost impossible one to defend.
Whether that will be enough to defeat Alabama, should Florida meet the Crimson Tide in Atlanta next month, fits squarely in the “to be determined” category. Florida’s defense was lethargic for two quarters against Kentucky Saturday and the Gators put the ball on the ground twice Saturday, giving Kentucky opportunities for short fields and easy points in the process. The Gators rushing defense still struggles wtih gap control at times and still misses tackles in the second level at others. And the Florida run game, while improved from a season ago, isn’t going to take a football game by the teeth. It’s Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts who do that, and did it again Saturday, dragging the Gators out of a first-half dogfight and turning it into a comfortable 24-point victory.
As a result, Florida’s dreams of playing in Atlanta with a College Football Playoff spot on the line remain firmly in their grasp, as do Trask’s hopes of winning Florida’s 4th Heisman Trophy.
If that happens, Pitts will have done one other thing he’ll need to be remembered for in Gator lore. He’ll have been the best football player on a team that also featured a Heisman Trophy winner. In the history of college football, membership in that club is a small list, one reserved only for giants like Kyle Pitts.