LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – In his first start at quarterback for Kentucky, Sawyer Smith passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cats suffered their first loss of the season, falling to No. 8 Florida 29-21 on Saturday night at Kroger Field.
The game was evenly played throughout before the Gators put it away late. Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) had 438 yards of total offense, while Kentucky had 407. The Cats had 27 first downs, compared to just 21 for the Gators.
Kavosiey Smoke carried 16 times for 81 yards for the Cats, while Lynn Bowden Jr. caught seven passes for 70 yards. Defensively, Kash Daniel lead Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) with 10 tackles, while Brandin Echols had seven stops.
The Gators got on the board first, when Feleipe Franks connected with Freddie Swain on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Evan McPherson added the extra point and Florida grabbed a 7-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Kentucky evened the score when Smith connected with Ahmad Wagner on a spectacular, acrobatic 26-yard touchdown score. Chance Poore’s extra point tied the game a 7-7.
On Florida’s next possession, Franks was sacked by Kordell Looney, who forced a fumble that was recovered by UK’s Taj Dodson at the UK 46 yard line. From there, the Cats drove and eventually took the lead on a one-yard TD run by Smith with 7:46 left in the first half. Poore added the extra point to make it 14-7.
Florida’s next drive appeared to be one that would tie the game. However, the Gators’ march stalled inside Kentucky territory, and McPherson’s 27-yard field goal attempt missed to the right, keeping the score 14-7. That would be the score at halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, Kentucky appeared ready to stretch its lead until Smith was intercepted by Shawn Davis, who returned the pick to the Kentucky 21 yard line. The Gators got to the UK 12 yard line before a penalty backed them up. Eventually, McPherson would try, and convert, a 32-yard field goal attempt, cutting Kentucky’s lead to 14-10 with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Kentucky had the answer, marching 75 yards in just six plays, culminating with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Keaton Upshaw, the first of Upshaw’s career. Poore’s PAT gave the Cats a 21-10 lead with 5:39 to play in the third quarter. The key play in the drive was an athletic catch by Wagner for 21 yards, which was compounded by a 15-yard penalty on the Gators.
Florida, with backup Kyle Trask playing quarterback in place of the injured Franks, proceeded to march 62 yards in six plays, and cut into Kentucky’s lead when Lamical Perine scored on an eight-yard run. Florida’s two-point conversion try was no good, and the Gators trailed 21-16 with 12:41 to play.
After a Smith interception, Florida would re-take the lead with a four-play, 66-yard scoring drive, capped by Trask’s four-yard touchdown run. The two-point try failed again, and the Gators led 22-21 with 4:11 to play.
That set the stage for Kentucky’s final drive, when the Cats drove deep into Florida territory with less than a minute to play. With 58 seconds left in the game, Poore tried a 35-yard field goal, but missed right.
On Florida’s next possession, as the Gators were running out the clock, Josh Hammond broke free and scampered 76 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.
Kentucky returns to action on Saturday, visiting Starkville, Mississippi, to face Mississippi State. Kickoff from Davis-Wade Stadium is set for 4 p.m. and the game can be seen on the SEC Network or the SEC Network Alternate channel.