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Kentucky falls to Florida: 7 things to know and postgame banter

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The Cats and Gators fought valiantly to the very end.

Florida v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats fell to the No. 9 ranked Florida Gators Saturday night by a score of 29-21.

The Gators came out firing, scoring early in the first quarter, but the defense held strong after that. As for the Cats, they didn’t hesitate to respond as they quickly took the lead and held it going into halftime 14-7.

But a missed field goal with less than a minute left sealed the Cats’ fate.

Kentucky will now prepare for next week when they visit the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who will be looking for revenge after the Cats mauled them last season.

Kavosiey Smoke is better than AJ Rose

Kentucky has a really good offensive line. Kentucky has three really good running backs. So, Kentucky should have a really good running game, right?

That wasn’t always the case Saturday night as the Cats struggled to find room against a solid Gator front. But that’s not what I took away from the game. I have finally come to my senses (it happened after the EMU game but still) and realized that Kavosiey Smoke is just on another level compared to AJ Rose.

I was confident in Rose coming into the season, but it’s becoming apparent to me that he serves the team better as a third down/change of pace back. He can’t read the field and he can’t see the holes. He just doesn’t have elite running back vision.

Smoke does. And Smoke is a star in the making. He is UK’s best running back prospect in a very long time. And let me clarify what I mean — he will play more and he will pay longer in the NFL than Benny Snell.

He has all the tools and intangibles. He has the perfect mix of speed and power to be an every down back for the Cats and be an absolute star. Rose, on the other hand, is a nice pass-catching/change of pace back. He has the ability to make big plays, but that’s it. Rodriguez is solid in short yardage situations, with an excellent mentality, assuming he can hold onto the ball.

But as of right now, Smoke is the man in the backfield for UK.

Sawyer Smith is not short of confidence

Sawyer Smith stepped up in the absence of Terry Wilson in a big way. We all knew he would be the story of the game, and he did exactly what I was scared of, while doing more than I had expected.

Smith was able to read well on the RPO, as well as consistently hit open targets in the passing game, especially in short passing situations. I knew he had a cannon for an arm, but the short passes were impressive.

He also wasn’t afraid to keep the ball every now and then. While he did make a rookie mistake on a fumble, and made a couple bad passes that led to Florida points, he controlled the game for the most part. He looked like a veteran and I hate to say it, but he looked better than Wilson had so far this year.

It’s a long season, but I don’t think the quarterback position is an issue moving forward.

The crowd was rocking

What a crowd in Kroger Field tonight!!! Kentucky fans didn’t fail to impress for the biggest game of the season. The Krog was rocking all night long and I know it played a big factor in the game.

Coach Stoops has continually pushed how important the crowd is for games and I think tonight was a prime example. BBN, you played a huge part in tonight’s game. Be proud of yourselves.

Ahmad Wagner

He’s the best receiver in college football history. That’s all. That’s all the analysis he needs.

Bend don’t break

The defense is in a bit of a different situation than they were last year and in years prior. Before last season, the Cats employed a bend-don’t-break defense that frustrated a lot of fans. The problem was the opposing offenses would methodically pick apart the defense and drive down the field.

That all changed last season. UK had their best defense in my lifetime and they never failed to exceed expectations, no matter how many times we all failed to believe in them.

Well, this season it’s a bit different. Kentucky is back to employing the bend-don’t-break defense. The difference? They’re really good at it.

So far in 2019, teams have been able to drive the ball a bit, but the Cats’ defense has never wavered. Forget the inexperienced secondary. Forget the loss of Josh Allen. This defense is real.

Phil Hoskins and Yusuf Corker were missing

The Cats lost two starters early on. Hoskins went down in pregame and had to carried off the field, while Corker was ejected on a pathetic targeting call in the first quarter. These losses were huge to say the least. Also, TJ Carter was ejected for a miserable targeting call.

This was supposed to be Hoskins’ first game this season after being suspended the first two weeks for academic reasons. And Corker is arguably the best player in the defensive backfield. TJ Carter was a preseason stand out expected to make a huge impact this year.

Kash Daniel didn’t like the calls and he let the referee know, but regardless, it was a big blow to the already inexperienced secondary and the defense as a whole.

The targeting rule has gotten out of hand

It’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m not sure what else to say. Multiple players were ejected on questionable calls that were simple football plays.

And the Cats lost because of it.

It was a hell of a performance for UK, but they couldn’t finish it off.