The Kentucky Wildcats were looking to make a huge statement as they faced off with the Florida Gators.
The game got off to a great start defensively as Tyrell Ajian got an interception giving the Cats solid field position.
Unfortunately, the Cats gave it right back on a fumbled snap, and the Gators were able to take advantage and get into the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
It was gut-check time for Sawyer Smith and the offense, but they responded and drove 79-yards in 12 plays capped off with an outstanding 29-yard TD catch by Ahmad Wagner to make it 7-7.
The Cats’ defense would for a fumble and the offense would go 54-yards in 11 plays as Smith took the QB sneak in for the TD making it 14-7.
The defense would make a huge stand in the red zone and a missed FG by the Gators would be the last real scoring opportunity for either team and the Cats took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
The second half was no doubt a rollercoaster ride that had a lot of turning points.
The Cats came out and drove down the field into the red zone, but an INT ended the drive in a crushing fashion. Florida would get a FG to make it 14-10.
The Cats responded with an impressive 6-play 75-yard drive that ended in a 13-yard TD pass to Keaton Upshaw to make it 21-10.
On the next drive for the Cats, they drove down into Gator territory and decided to go for it on a 4th and 1.
To me, this was the turning point of the game as the Gators stuffed the Wildcat run and took over on downs.
The Gators drove down the field and got into the endzone to make it 21-16.
With 6:05 left in the game, an INT in a bad spot allowed the Gators to take over and they got in the endzone to take the 22-21 lead.
Kentucky executed a game winning drive almost perfect and had a FG opportunity to win the game but it was off right and the Gators would go on to win the game 29-21.
Thoughts on the game
Sawyer Smith has a bright season ahead
Were mistakes made? Yes. However, Smith made some really good plays and gave his receivers opportunities to make plays.
The first INT was a bad throw on his part, but the second was just miscommunication and not having that chemistry with Lynn Bowden.
All the issues he had tonight can be worked out in practice.
Smith was 23/35 for 267-yards and 2 TDs. He is only going to get better as the season continues and I am looking forward to seeing him grow and develop.
3rd and 21?— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 14, 2019
No problem, just look for automatic first down Mr. Ahmad Wagner. pic.twitter.com/AIcMQCvKc8
Sawyer Smith converts another 3rd down, this time to Josh Ali. pic.twitter.com/PLvRBtVile— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 14, 2019
Ahmad Wagner is a superstar
I believe that Wagner has solidified himself as UK’s #2 WR going forward. The kid just makes plays after plays.
To start off, he had an incredible TD grab that I was fully expecting to see pass interference called on because the defender was draped all over him.
Ahmad Wagner did wut????— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 14, 2019
As the game went on, he drew penalties and made tough catches all night on his way to a 3 reception 70-yard and 1 TD game.
Having a weapon like that is going to be huge going forward.
Never a doubt Ahmad Wagner was coming down with this ball.— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 15, 2019
Kavosiey Smoke is the best RB
While I do thing, AJ Rose is a very talented RB, I believe that Smoke deserves to be the starter going forward with Rose as RB2.
Smoke has been a star all season and he continued that tonight as he was once again UK’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 81-yards and averaged 5.1 YPC.
I don’t know if it will be next week, but we are seeing Smoke get more and more carries each week, and I think we’ll see him as the starter sooner rather than later.
The defense looked much better for most of the game
Early on, I thought the defense played very well. They came out and got a big INT on the opening drive.
Tyrell Ajian with the big interception. pic.twitter.com/31eJQNpX12— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 14, 2019
Brandin Echols with a big time tackle. pic.twitter.com/4eHOUL7kJ1— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 15, 2019
Then they were put in a tough spot after Kentucky turned it back over which led to a TD.
When the 4th quarter started, the defense had held the Gators to 10-points. The problem was some mistakes by the offense put them in tough spots which is when the Gators started their comeback.
Overall, I like what I saw from the unit and know they will continue to get better as the season continues.
This one will sting for a while, but the Cats will have to regroup as they travel next week to face Mississippi State.
Now, here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- Kentucky is 2-1, 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida is 3-0, 1-0 in the league.
- Florida leads the series, 52-18.
- Next for Kentucky will be a road trip to Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 21. Game time is 4 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. CDT in Starkville) and it will be televised on the SEC Network or SEC Network alternate channel.
- UK has made 124 consecutive extra points, the ninth-longest active streak in the nation.
- Kentucky outrushed the Gators 140-138.
- The Wildcats won the time of possession battle, 34:55-25:05
- Tonight’s attendance of 63,076 is the fifth-largest since the renovation of the stadium in 2015.
- UK’s game captains: OG Logan Stenberg, QB Terry Wilson, LB Kash Daniel and ATH Lynn Bowden Jr.
- The honorary captain was record-setting quarterback Andre’ Woodson (2004-07), Most Valuable Player of the 2006 and ’07 Music City Bowls and 2019 UK Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
- Junior quarterback Sawyer Smith made his first start at Kentucky. He went 13-of-35 for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Smith did throw three interceptions.
- Completed his first nine passes of the game before his first incompletion with 1:59 remaining in the second quarter.
- Smith is the second UK quarterback since 1993 with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in his first career start. The other to accomplish that was Jared Lorenzen vs. Louisville in 2000.
- His 267 passing yards are the most for a UK quarterback in his first career start since Patrick Towles vs. UT Martin in 2014 (377).
- Junior athlete Lynn Bowden Jr. caught seven passes for 70 yards.
- Now has 104 catches in his career, becoming the 17th player in Kentucky history with at least 100 receptions in his career.
- Now has 1,156+ career receiving yards, moving past Dorian Baker for 25th place on the UK career receiving yardage list.
- He is the first UK player with at least six receptions in each of the first three games since James Whalen in 1999.
- Has caught a pass in 17 consecutive games.
- He is the third quickest to 100 career receptions in terms of games played (29 games). Anthony White accomplished the feat in 21 games and Derek Abney did it in 22 games.
- Senior WR Ahmad Wagner caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
- Redshirt freshman RB Kavosiey Smoke rushed a game-high 16 times for 81 yards.
- The 16 rushing attempts was a career high.
- Junior RB Asim “AJ” Rose rushed 14 times for 46 yards.
- Senior TE Justin Rigg had five receptions for 50 yards, both career highs.
- Freshman TE Keaton Upshaw had his first collegiate touchdown with a 13-yard catch in the third quarter.
- Junior DT Kordell Looney had a sack/caused fumble in the second quarter and freshman S Taj Dodson recovered the fumble – for both players, the first such plays of their careers.
- Junior CB Brandin Echols and junior QB Sawyer Smith each made his first start at Kentucky.