Kentucky beats Florida at home for the first time since 1986, 20-13

LEXINGTON, KY (UK Athletics)- Josh Paschal blocked a field goal that Trevin Wallace returned 76 yards for a touchdown as No. 23 Kentucky upset ninth-ranked Florida 20-13 on Saturday night at Kroger Field.

With Florida holding a 10-7 advantage in the third quarter, Paschal used all of his 6-3 frame to successfully block the 48-yard Jace Christmann attempt. Trevin Wallace then snatched the ball at the Kentucky 24 and rapidly sped down the sideline 76 yards until reaching the end zone, giving UK a lead that it would never surrender.

It was the UK defense and special teams that carried the team all evening, as Kentucky beat Florida in Lexington for the first time since 1986 and for just the second time in the last 35 meetings.

Chris Rodriguez Jr. carried the offensive load for the Cats with 99 yards and a touchdown in the game. Quarterback Will Levis was six of 15 through the air for 74 yards and a score.

DeAndre Square led the defensive attack with 13 tackles, while Jacquez Jones had nine tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup on Florida’s final offensive play of the game. Paschal has seven tackles, including two and a half for loss, in addition to the blocked kick, the third of his UK career.

The teams exchanged punts to start the game; however, Florida quarterback Emory Jones connected on a pass to Ja’Quavion Fraziers, who ran seven yards before diving into the end zone for a Florida touchdown. The PAT by Christmann was good, giving the Gators a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Kentucky offense picked up the pace after Florida’s touchdown. On a screen pass, Levis connected with Wan’Dale Robinson, who made it through Florida’s aggressive defense and into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown. The extra point by Matt Ruffalo tied the game 7-7, with 5:19 left in the first quarter.

After three-and-outs by both teams, Florida inserted backup quarterback Anthony Richardson, who sparked the Gators’ offense. Florida would drive into Kentucky territory before the drive stalled. The Gators were forced into a 51-yard Christmann field goal, which was good, giving Florida a 10-7 lead with 5:32 left in the first half.

Both defenses fought hard to for the remainder of the second quarter, and the teams went to the half with Florida holding a 10-7 lead.

The Cats got the first possession of the second half and made first downs on consecutive plays. But the drive stalled near midfield, where Kentucky was forced to punt. Florida would also punt on its first possession of the second half.

But on UK’s next drive, the Cats committed the game’s first turnover when Levis’ pass intended for Izayah Cummings was intercepted by Florida’s Tre’Vez Johnson.

It was that possession which ended with Christmann’s field goal attempt being blocked by Pashcal and returned for a touchdown by Wallace. It was the first time since 2008 that a Kentucky player had returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown (David Jones did so against Vanderbilt that year). The PAT was blocked, but the Cats grabbed a 13-10 lead with 6:36 to play in the third quarter.

As the fourth quarter began, Kentucky went for it on fourth-and-two, but Rodriguez was stuffed and the Gators took over on their own 34 yard line.

But on the second play from scrimmage, Jones was intercepted by UK’s J.J. Weaver, who returned it to the UF 29 yard line, setting the Cats up in excellent field position. Kentucky would convert the turnover into points later in the drive when Rodriguez went around right end and scored from nine yards out. Ruffolo added the PAT and Kentucky led 20-10 with 11:32 to play.

Florida would cut into the deficit on its next possession. The Gators would drive into UK territory and eventually into the red zone. But a penalty halted the drive and Florida settled for a 33-yard field goal from Christmann to make it 20-13 with 6:23 to play.

Kentucky took possession and went three-and-out, resulting in a punt. The Gators would take over at their own 38 yard line with 4:39 to play. Florida would drive into the UK red zone and, on fourth and goal from the eight yard line, Jones’ pass was broken up by Jacquez Jones to seal the victory.

Kentucky face another SEC opponent, LSU Tigers, at Kroger Field next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

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