Rapid Reaction: Gators rally again, make it 31 in a row over Kentucky
Make it 31 years and counting.
Luke Del Rio found a wide open Freddie Swain in the corner of the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap a fourth-quarterback comeback and give the No. 20 Florida Gators a 28-27 win over Kentucky on Saturday night.
The Wildcats were confused coming out of a timeout and ran several players off the field. In the confusion, Swain was left open for an easy pitch and catch.
Kentucky had a last chance when quarterback Stephen Johnson hit Charles Walker for 14 yards on a 4th-and-11 to the Florida 35, but a 15-yard run by Benny Snell was nullified by a holding call on guard Nick Haynes taking the Wildcats out of field goal position with 6 seconds left.
The Wildcats were able to set up a 57-yard field goal, but Austin MacGinnis’ kick fell short, giving Florida its 31st consecutive victory over Kentucky.
Florida turned to Del Rio to replace Feleipe Franks early in the third quarter and although the senior quarterback threw an interception on his third snap, he settled down and the Gators began moving the chains.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney found Tyrie Cleveland on an option pass for 50 yards to set up the Gators touchdown – a 6-yard run by Brandon Powell out of direct snap to make the score 27-21 with 7:58 remaining.
After the Wildcats went three-and-out, Del Rio took control of the offense again. Powell converted a 3rd-and-6 with a nice effort on a screen pass and Del Rio found Mark Thompson for 10 yards on 4th-and-3 to the Kentucky 30. On the next play Del Rio hit Powell on a deep ball inside the 5-yard-line but Powell stepped out of bounds before the catch.
The Gators converted another fourth down when Malik Davis rushed for five yards to the Kentucky 15.
Kentucky controlled the third quarter and took a 24-14 lead with 10 unanswered points.
The Wildcats needed just four plays on their first possession of the second half to make the score 21-14. Johnson threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 23-yarder to tight-end C.J. Conrad.
After another Florida 3-and-out the Wildcats used a 30-yard run from Sihiem King to set up a 42-yard field goal from McGinnis to take a 10-point lead.
McGinnis hit a 50-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 27-14 with 11:33 left in regulation. It was the 58th field goal of MacGinnis’ career, setting a school record.
The first half featured several big plays, communication breakdowns and back-and-forth actions.
Kentucky took a 7-0 lead on its second possession of the game when Johnson connected with Blake Bone for a 14-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-5. The Wildcats went 75 yards on eight plays with a 21-yard pass from Johnson to Kayaune Ross helping set up the score.
Florida responded early in the second quarter with a 36-yard run by Toney to tie the game at 7-7. Toney, a wide receiver, lined up in the shotgun behind center and took the direct snap went around the right side virtually untouched to the end zone.
The Wildcats took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter when Stephen Johnson found Garrett Johnson on a 9-yard strike. The short scoring drive was set up by a 52-yard punt return by Charles Walker that gave Kentucky a 1st-and-goal at the Florida 10.
Florida answered back again when Franks connected with Cleveland for a 45-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-3. After Mark Thompson rushed for two yards on a 3rd-and-5, Florida called a timeout and when both teams came out of the break Kentucky failed to account for Cleveland, who was uncovered and won a footrace to the end zone.
Florida sophomore linebacker Vosean Joseph was ejected from the game with 2:30 remaining in the first half after being flagged for a personal foul with targeting on a hit to Johnson. Kentucky, however, missed a 48-yard field goal on the drive.