7:59:18 UKvsFloridaFB

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Sawyer Smith (12) runs the ball out of bounds during the UK vs Florida football game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Florida won 29-21. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Sawyer Smith’s first-ever start as a Wildcat didn’t end the way he would’ve hoped.

The quarterback had a series of highs and lows in his team’s 29-21 loss against the No. 9 ranked Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at Kroger Field on Saturday night.

“There was a lot of stuff tonight that we did that was good. There was a lot of stuff that I did that I can clean up, and, if I did, the game might not have been the same,” Smith said after the game.

After fumbling on his first drive, Smith immediately redeemed himself by leading a 12 play, 79-yard drive that he capped off with a 26-yard touchdown strike to Ahmad Wagner. He ended the Cats’ next drive with his own 1-yard touchdown run to give his team a 14-7 lead entering halftime.

Smith’s momentum started to rattle off after halftime though. On the Cats’ first drive of the second half, Smith threw an interception near the end zone to Gators’ safety Shawn Davis.

“He thought the receiver was going one way and it was a miscommunication. I think he’ll see it again and he’ll picture it and won’t make that mistake,” UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said about the interception.

After throwing another long ball to Wagner that got the Cats in the red zone again midway through the third quarter, Smith threw a 13-yard end zone bullet to tight end Keaton Upshaw, increasing the Cats’ lead 21-10.

But that was the beginning of the end.

The Cats’ next two drives ended with a turnover on downs and punt in that order. Smith then came back out and threw yet another interception to Davis, near the sideline close to midfield, with just over six minutes left in the game as Florida capped off a comeback that featured 19 unanswered points. 

“Yeah, there's, there was a miscommunication there, yeah,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said about the play. “You know, there's some plays that we could do over, and you know, there's some plays that the receivers can help him on, as well, you know.”

Smith finished the game throwing 23-of-35 with 267 passing yards and two touchdowns along with three interceptions. Nonetheless, Smith’s 267 passing yards on Saturday were most by a UK quarterback in his first career start since Patrick Towles in 2014. He’s also only other Cats’ quarterback besides Jared Lorenzen to have two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in their first career start.

“This game sucks because we played really, really hard. This whole game, we felt like we dominated the whole thing. Just got to go into the film room and learn from our mistakes,” Smith said. 

As Smith looks to move on from the loss, Gran says he believes Smith has potential. 

“I was really proud of him. He made some really good throws and was on time. I thought he did a heck of a job on third down.  I really believe the young man will get better as we continue.”