For the first time since 1986, Kentucky football defeated Florida in Lexington. Fans rushed Kroger Field as the score of 20-13 went final.
“I'd like to start by saying thank you to the BBN. That's for you,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “They really showed up in a big, big way today and had an impact on the game. They affected the football game in a very positive way. I really can't thank you enough.”
Despite being out-gained 382 yards to 211, the Wildcats defense bent but didn’t break, making stops in crucial moments.
Penalties played to UK’s advantage Saturday night, as Florida committed 15 penalties, accumulating 115 yards.
"I can’t thank Big Blue Nation enough, the amount of false starts that they caused, it caused all of that pre-snap communication issue for them because the crowd was so loud. So, they were really the twelfth man for us and we appreciate the heck out of them and we are going to need it all season,” defensive coordinator Brad White said.
UK quarterback Will Levis completed just six of 15 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown and an interception. Florida’s Emory Jones threw for 203 yards on 23 completions, tossing one touchdown and an interception. Jones also rushed 63 yards.
Chris Rodriguez Jr led all rushers, collecting 99 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts.
“Offensively we struggled. I give Florida and Todd Grantham a lot of credit, an excellent defensive coordinator. They really had a nice plan and played very good defensively,” Stoops said.
After both teams began the game with a punt, Florida drove down the field and punched in what would be their only touchdown of the game. Jones found Ja’Quavion Fraziars for a seven-yard score.
Kentucky would respond with a score of their own, as Levis found Wan’Dale Robinson on a screen pass that the receiver would subsequently take to the Gator endzone for a 41-yard touchdown.
“We are actually taught to get outside but I cut across the field, put my foot in the ground, and made the defender miss. I just had to get in the end zone,” Robinson said.
Both teams would punt their next two possessions, before Florida would regain the lead after a 51-yard field goal from Jace Christmann capped off an 11-play drive. UK would not muster up any offense before the break, heading into halftime down 10-7.
The second half began the same way the first half ended, as the Wildcats were struggling to gain any momentum. The seventh UK drive of the game saw an errant Levis pass intercepted by UF’s Tre’Vez Johnson for the first turnover of the game.
The following Florida drive saw Kentucky make three stops to force a fourth down. UF’s attempted field goal would be blocked by UK’s Josh Paschal, and recovered by Trevin Wallace, who would sprint to the Florida endzone for a special teams touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 13-10 lead.
Kentucky’s defense would stop an instant reply from the Gators and hold the lead going into the fourth quarter. Kentucky’s following drive saw them attempt a fourth-down conversion but fail to convert on a Rodriguez rush.
Florida’s subsequent drive would last two plays, as a Jones’ pass would be intercepted by J.J. Weaver and returned to UF territory. The Wildcats would need just five plays to capitalize on the turnover, as Rodriguez rolled into the endzone for a nine-yard touchdown, giving UK a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The Gators would not go down easily, as they responded with a 13-play drive ending with a field goal, cutting the lead down to one score.
With the opportunity to take off as much game-clock as possible, Kentucky failed to give their defense a break, going three-and-out, punting the ball back to Florida with 4:39 left in the game.
Jones would complete three passes for 43 yards before running for 10 more. Quickly the gators were in the endzone.
With 22 seconds remaining, Florida had the ball on the UK eight-yard line with 22 seconds remaining.
On fourth-and-goal, an Emory Jones pass to Trent Whittemore would fall incomplete, spelling victory for the Wildcats.
“Awesome, can’t thank the fans enough for coming out, supporting and just being the people that they are, bringing the energy and changing the game. Happy for the team, really happy for our defense for pulling it out, and happy for Big Blue Nation,” Levis said.
Levis would kneel in victory formation as chaos ensued in Lexington. The win improved Kentucky's record to 5-0 (3-0 SEC,) halting a 16-game win streak at Kentucky for Florida.
“Things like that aren't easy. It hasn't happened in a while because it's not easy. Our players just constantly put their head down, the coaches put their head down, take care of things in front of them,” Stoops said. “I've said it for a long time now, this team, just take care of the business in front of us, they don't need to be anybody other than who they are.”
The Wildcats are 5-0 for just the fourth time in the last 70 years. They will look to make it six-straight wins next Saturday as they host the LSU Tigers. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. E.T.
“You win games any way you can,” Stoops said. “As I mentioned, that was a thing of beauty tonight. Looking forward to celebrating the win for a few hours, then punching the clock and getting back to work tomorrow morning.”