Under head coach Dan Mullen, Florida has lost to Kentucky twice in the last four years, something that the last five Gators’ coaches never did in 31 seasons.
The Wildcats beat Florida 20-13, marking their first home win over UF since 1986.
Quarterback Emory Jones led Florida down the field to open the scoring. He was perfect through the air, completing three passes for 38 yards. Jones hit wide receiver Xavier Henderson on two-consecutive passes before capping the drive with a quick-hitter to wide receiver Ja’Quavion Fraziars. The sophomore dove to the goal line for his first career touchdown.
During the Gators’ scoring drive quarterback Anthony Richardson saw his first action since suffering a hamstring injury against USF. The redshirt freshman spelled Jones for one play, carrying the ball for 11 yards and a first down.
The Wildcats answered Florida’s drive with a big-play score. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis threw a screen pass to wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and he did the rest. The junior took it 41 yards to the endzone, leveling the score at seven.
The Gators reclaimed the lead, 10-7, with a 51-yard field goal from Jace Christmann. The make matched the Mississippi State transfer’s career high and was his longest field goal since coming to Florida.
Florida regained possession on its own 13 yard line with 1:56 left in the second half. Despite some movement on the ground, Mullen questionably took all three of his first-half timeouts with him into the locker room.
At halftime, the jury was out on if the game was either an offensive struggle or a defensive battle. The two teams were a combined one for nine on third down. Florida punter Jeremy Crawshaw and Kentucky punter Colin Goodfellow totaled seven boots for 321 yards.
Defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson made the first splash play of the second half. His second- career interception came off a saling pass from Levis. The sophomore returned the pick 26 yards to the Wildcats 16 yard line. Florida was dropped back to the 31 following a personal foul on defensive lineman Antonio Valentino. The Gators failed to capitalize off the turnover, gaining no ground on offense and sending out Christmann for a 48-yard field goal attempt.
Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal swarmed Christmann, blocking the kick. The football was scooped by linebacker Trevin Wallace and returned 76 yards for the Wildcats go-ahead score. Kentucky’s lead would only be three though. Valentino responded with a block of his own on kicker Matt Ruffolo’s PAT attempt.
On the opening play of the fourth quarter the Wildcats lined up for a 4th-and-2. Outside linebacker Jeramiah Moon and defensive end Gervon Dexter stuffed running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr. for no gain. However, Florida couldn’t capitalize on the turnover on downs.
Jones threw his sixth interception of the season handing the ball right back to Kentucky. The throw was forced into double coverage on a pass intended for tight end Kemore Gamble. Five plays later Rodriguez Jr. sprinted untouched into the endzone, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 10.
Florida responded with a 13 play 59-yard drive that ate up 5:09 of the clock. Mullen kept his offense on the field to go for it on fourth down before the Gators sixth false start of the game brought Christmann on the field. He knocked through the field goal to tighten the game to a single possession.
UF had its chance to force overtime. Jones got his offense into a goal-to-go situation. The game hung in the balance on 4th-and-goal from the eight. A pass break up by Kentucky linebacker Jaquez Jones sealed the game in favor of the Wildcats.
Adding to the frustration, the Gators were penalized 15 times for 115 yards, including a costly false start in the final goal-to-go sequence.
Kroger Field was swarmed by fans and Florida will head home following a demoralizing defeat.
— Nick de la Torre (@delatorre) October 3, 2021