Saturday night’s affair between the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field had everything you could ask for from a game in this series. It truly lived up to the reputation of the last three decades of stupidity in this matchup. The unpredictability was normal, but what was not was the result that saw Kentucky beating their foes from the Sunshine State at home for the first time since 1986. Final score, 20-13.
Let’s break down some of these head scratching numbers. Florida out gained Kentucky 382 to 224, but managed to lose 115 yards on FIFTEEN penalties. The Wildcat fans played a big hand in the Gators committing eight false start penalties, including two on their final drive.
Some more interesting and somewhat surprising numbers from this game include Kentucky scoring on plays of 41 and 76 yards. The 41 yarder was a pass from Will Levis to Wan’Dale Robinson in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7. The 76 yard play was not a run, not a pass, but a blocked field goal return by freshman linebacker Trevin Wallace. This gave the Cats a 13-10 lead with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter that they never relinquished.
Kentucky’s knockout punch came when Chris Rodriguez darted in from nine yards out to stretch the lead to 20-10 with 11:32 remaining in the game following an interception on Florida’s preceding drive. He finished with 99 rushing yards, continuing his strong 2021 campaign.
Florida would add a field goal with 6:23 left, but the comeback bid officially fell short when Jacquez Jones broke up Emory Jones’ pass from the UK eight yard line with 18 seconds left in the contest.
Overall, Kentucky did just enough on offense to push them over the edge. They only committed one turnover which came on a Will Levis interception, but they weren’t negative in turnovers for the game since Florida threw the aforementioned pick themselves. The key difference on the field for Kentucky, however, was the defense. Josh Paschal was disruptive and a one man wrecking crew at times along the defensive line. The Wildcat DBs made clutch plays and were the definition of bending without breaking. Florida’s longest play from scrimmage on the night was only a 22 yard catch by Xzavier Henderson.
It was quite easy to tell while this wasn’t Florida’s first true road game since 2019, (they faced USF in Tampa in Week 2) it was their first road TEST since then. The Gators had to resort to a silent snap count due to the noise in Kroger Field and this caused issues all game.
Florida will now go into season salvage mode next week and playing Vanderbilt at home will be a good way to get that started. Meanwhile, Kentucky has big dreams and hopes to keep the momentum up next week as they host LSU. If that Cats win that one, it sets up what could end up being a de facto SEC East Championship game between the hedges in Athens on October 16.