Kentucky Beats Florida 26-16

Stoops Gets All-Time Wins Record

For three decades the Kentucky and Florida football series wasn’t much of a rivalry. From 1987-2017 the Gators won 31 straight. However, since Mark Stoops took over the Cats have turned it into one. In recent history, the games have gone down to the wire with some occasional strange things happening. Saturday night in “The Swamp” was no different. After a shaky first half, they dominated the second as Kentucky beats Florida 26-16 as Stoops becomes the winningest coach in school history.

Slow Start

The first quarter was mostly controlled by the defenses. Between the two schools, there were six punts on the first seven possessions. A 39-yard field goal by Adam Mihalek put the Gators up 3-0. Kentucky finally got on the board following a 55-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis to Dane Key. That’s the second score in as many weeks for the freshman.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Billy Napier’s club cut the lead to 1 on another Mihalek field goal. That’s when things took a turn for the worse for the Big Blue Nation. Levis was picked off by Gervon Dexter Sr. Five plays later Trevor Etienne took it 11 yards for the score. Anthony Richardson‘s pass to Etienne put Florida up 14-7.

On their next possession, UK was forced to punt and it did not go well. An errant snap went all the way into the end zone forcing Colin Goodfellow to kick it out for safety.

Kentucky needed a momentum shift and they got it on an interception by Jordan Wright. The senior linebacker, who wasn’t cleared to even play until late in the week, ran it back to the Florida six. Levis took it in for the score from one yard out. However, UK failed on the conversion and trailed 16-13 at the half.

Flipping The Script

Much like they did last week against Miami (Ohio) the Cats dominated the second half. A 24 yard field goal by Matt Ruffolo tied the game at 16. Then came the momentum shift Kentucky needed. On the next possession Keidron Smith took a Richardson pass 65 yards for a “pick six” to give the Cats the lead. In the process he made the Florida signal caller miss.

From there the Wildcats’ defense put the clamps down on Florida forcing a punt and then turning them over on downs twice. Both times coming deep into their own territory. The Gator nation has to be questioning Napier’s decision-making on those series. One more Ruffolo field goal provided the final margin as Kentucky beats Florida 26-16.

Looking Ahead

With the win, the Cats move to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in the SEC. They look for a 3-0 start next Saturday when they host Youngstown State from the Missouri Valley conference. The Penguins are 2-0 on the season with wins over Duquense and Dayton. These games hold some special value as Stoops, Vince Marrow and a few players are all from Northeast Ohio.

With all the craziness in college football this week you would hope they’d jump a few spots from the 20th this week. In addition with Texas A&M losing you’d think the Cats will move up from the ReliaQuest Bowl in our newest projections.

As for the Gators, they fall to 1-1 on the season and 0-1 in the conference.  Next week they’ll step out of conference for another home game, this time against the South Florida Bulls.

Final Thoughts

Stoops doesn’t like talking about personal milestones but this was a big one. With 61 wins he passes Bear Bryant as the winningest coach in school history.

For those that may not remember Stoops was 12-26 two games into his fourth season in Lexington. Since then he’s gone 49-27 with two ten-win seasons and four straight bowl wins. Taking it a step further the Cats are 14-3 since starting 3-6 during the COVID year of 2020.

If you read our game preview, and we know you did, we said Kentucky must contain Richardson. They did just that holding him to four yards on the ground and 14-35 passing for 143 yards and two big interceptions.

Furthermore, we said UK must get their running game going and in the second half, they did just that. Led by Kavosiey Smoke‘s 80 the Cats gained 121 total. All the credit in the world goes to Smoke who helped run out the clock late in the game. The offensive line was great in that second half looking more like what we expect from “The Big Blue Wall.”

Again Kentucky beats Florida 26-16 as they’ve now won two straight against Florida for the first time since 1976-77. In addition, UK’s taken three of the last five from the school they lost 31 straight to previously. They also may have quieted some critics including the SEC Network’s Roman Harper who said the Cats were “soft” and Florida would win easily.

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