Rapid Reaction: Kentucky finds a way, upsets No. 10 Florida
It figured to take a special performance for Kentucky to beat Florida at home for the first time since 1986. The Wildcats’ offense struggled, failing to convert a third down into the fourth quarter. The defense was its gritty, scratchy best. But Kentucky needed more. Kentucky got more, courtesy of a massive blocked field goal and return that spear-headed the way for Kentucky to hold off Florida 20-13.
Kentucky secured the win by knocking down a pass on 4th-and-goal.
The win will likely vault the Wildcats (5-0) into the top 20, on a week that saw many ranked teams falling by the wayside.
Florida jumped ahead early. After the teams traded punts to open the game, the Gators put together a 7-play, 75-yard scoring march, chewing up 13, 11, 22, 9, and 13 yards on successive plays before reaching the end zone on a 7-yard connection from QB Emory Jones to Ja’Quavion Fraziars. The extra point gave Florida a 7-0 edge with 7:57 to go in the opening quarter.
But Kentucky answered on the following possession, covering 75 yards in 5 plays, with the final 41 coming on a tunnel screen connection from QB Will Levis to Wan’Dale Robinson, who entered Saturday as the SEC’s leading receiver. The extra point tied the game at 7 with 5:19 left in the first quarter.
From there, a battle of defenses ensued. The only remaining score of the first half came when UF drove from their own 12 to the UK 28. The Gators tried a 46-yard field goal, which Jace Christmann made, only for a delay of game penalty to take the points off the board. Christmann reloaded from 51 yards and made the kick with room to spare for a 10-7 UF lead with 5:32 left in the first half.
A series of plays in the mid third-quarter turned the momentum. On 3rd-and-12 from the UK 20, Levis overshot Isaiah Epps and instead threw an interception to UF’s Tre’vez Johnson. Florida began its ensuing drive on the UK 31, but it quickly bogged down and UF attempted a 48-yard field goal. Josh Paschal got free for a block and the deflected kick fell to UK linebacker Trevin Wallace who raced 76 yards for a go-ahead score. Florida blocked the extra point, but UK claimed a 13-10 edge with 6:36 to go in the third quarter.
Paschal was a consistently disruptive presence for the UK front, contributing not only the crucial blocked field goal but also 2.5 tackles for loss, as Kentucky battled the Florida offense to a virtual stalemate after their opening score.
Kentucky evened the turnover battle early in the fourth quarter, when Emory Jones fired an interception that UK’s JJ Weaver returned well into Gators territory. With a short field, Kentucky ground its way to a first down and then a touchdown, with Chris Rodriguez reaching the end zone on a 9-yard scoring jaunt. The PAT stretched Kentucky’s lead to 20-10 with 11:32 to play.
Florida drove down the field on the ensuing drive, reaching the UK 11, with Dan Mullen leaving the offense on to try for a first down. But after a false start, the Gators settled for a 33 yard Christmann field goal with 6:23 to play that pulled UF within 20-13.
Kentucky will host LSU next week, as the Wildcats look to move to 6-0 for the first time since 1950. Meanwhile, Florida’s second SEC loss likely eliminates the Gators from the SEC East race. Florida will host Vanderbilt next week.