For the first time since 1986, the Kentucky Wildcats walked off the field in Lexington with a victory over Florida, beating the nation’s No. 10th ranked team 20-13 in front of a sellout crowd on Saturday night at Kroger Field, much of which stormed the field following the historic victory.
While Florida has dominated the series, Kentucky has now split with the Gators the past four years, winning at Gainesville in 2018 and now a victory in the 2021 season that keeps the Wildcats’ hopes alive for its first SEC East title.
Florida got on the board first after 75-yard drive after quarterback Emory Jones connected with Ja’Quavion Fraziars on a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Gators an early 7-0 lead.
Kentucky responded on its next possession as Wan’Dale Robinson caught a short screen pass from Will Levis and scampered into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-all.
Florida’s Jace Christmann nailed a career-long 51-yard field goal to give the Gators a 10-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the turnover bug once again hurt the Kentucky offense as Levis threw his sixth interception of the season as Florida looked primed to extend its lead.
However, defensive end Josh Paschal had other ideas, coming up with a big time tackle on 3rd and 13 to stop the drive before blocking a 48-yard field goal attempt that fell in the arms of Trevin Wallace who raced 76-yards for a touchdown to shift the momentum.
Unfortunately, kicker Matt Ruffolo had the PAT blocked as Kentucky had to settle for a 13-10 lead with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky began the fourth quarter with a 4th and 2 from Florida’s 34-yard line as Rodriguez came up short out of the Wildcat formation to turn the ball over on downs. Once again, the Wildcat defense held tight as linebacker J.J. Weaver picked off a Florida pass, and then fumbled, before Tyrell Ajian fell on the ball to keep possession.
Kentucky took advantage of the turnover and scored five plays later on a 9-yard run by Chris Rodriguez and Ruffalo’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 20-10 lead with 11:32 remaining.
Offensively, Kentucky struggled on third down and was inconsistent in the passing game as Levis finished 6-for-15 for 74 yards and an interception. Rodriguez started slow, but finished with 99 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Florida got back on the board with a field goal to cut the lead to 20-13 and had one final drive that came down to the last play of the game as linebacker Jacquez Jones knocked a pass down in the end zone on 4th and 8 with 0:22 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Paschal was simply the best player on the field on Saturday night, leading the Kentucky defense in another smash-mouth effort.
The 6-foot-3 senior had his best game of the season and finished with numerous big plays, including the blocked field goal, and continues to be among the leaders in the SEC for tackles for loss (TFL).
Paschal, the first player in school history to be named team captain for three straight seasons, was a preseason second-team All-SEC pick and will most certainly climb up NFL draft boards after an impressive performance against the Gators.
Many game balls to go around for the defense, including Jones, Weaver, Ajian and Wallace, but a big tip of the cap goes to defensive coordinator Brad White who has created one of the nation’s best defensive units.
Kentucky, 5-0, hosts LSU for the first time since 2007 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Kroger Field. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
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