By LARRY VAUGHT
No idea how many more times senior receiver Ahmad Wagner can have a “wow” moment for the Kentucky football team this year but the touchdown catch he had against Florida in Saturday’s 29-21 loss was amazing.
He dove for the pass in the end zone from Sawyer Smith, tipped it, managed to get his right hand on it, kept his right hand under the ball as he hit the ground and did not fumble.
Florida had the play well covered — and probably should have bene called for interference even if he had not made the catch.
“It was just a great pass from Sawyer. I got hit in the eye and really could not see that well,” Wagner said. “The ball just sort of fell where it was supposed to fall. That was on God on that one, nothing to do with me.”
Surely it had a little to do with him taking the contact and holding the ball?
“That was God doing that. I didn’t know if I caught it. I couldn’t see it. I knew I had held on to the ball but I didn’t know what they (officials) saw,” Wagner said. “I couldn’t really see. I was asking if I caught it and guys said yeah so I knew I was good.”
Wagner had three catches for 70 yards against Florida and now has nine catches for 198 yards — 22 yards per catch — and two scores this year to go with the pass interference calls he seems to always be drawing. Yet UK did not seem to target him enough in the second half. I asked coach Mark Stoops if it was Florida’s defense taking Wagner away or UK not doing enough to get him the ball.
“They do a good job of mixing their coverage and combo and doubling at times. You know, I’m sure we’ll look at the film and see a few plays that we probably say we could have gone back to them. You know, I’m sure that’s probably going to happen, like always, if you could have a do-over, you may do it,” Stoops said. “There’s plays that jump out at me, you know, right now that I think about it also, but they do do a nice job of mixing it up.”
Stoops said Wagner can make “some really competitive catches with tight coverage on him” and that UK will continue to throw to him in tight coverage even if it went away from it the second half.
Wagner played three years of basketball at Iowa before transferring to UK in 2018 to play football. He had no complaints about the number of passes thrown his way.
“They mixed it up covering me (in the second half). More safety help sometimes. They just mixed up zone, man a lot more. They just did a really good job,” Wagner said.
Was he covered most plays?
“They played good defense. You have to make plays. Sometimes I was covered, other times I was not,” Wagner said. “Quarterback makes the read. If I was open or any of us open, Sawyer got us the ball. If we weren’t, he didn’t. I got nothing bad to say about that.
“Sawyer was aggressive, hard-nosed and he comes to play. Obviously, it was his first start for us so probably some jitters or something, but I think he played well. I stand behind how he played and that’s our QB. Obviously there were mistakes but there are mistakes everywhere. We are going to improve on that and just get better week to week. I do what I can. I just try to be aggressive and help the team. That’s all I care about.”
Wagner promised blowing the 21-10 lead and losing 29-21 will not ruin UK’s season. Kentucky plays at Mississippi State and South Carolina the next two weeks.
“This one hurt. We played hard and made some mistakes, but everybody left everything out on the field,” Wagner said. “I feel like we all wanted it bad, and this one is going to sting, but we just have to get right and focus on the next game.”
Wagner won’t let the notoriety he’s been receiving impact the way he plays, either.
“I feel good. I have great teammates, great offensive line, great coaches, so they make it easier on me. I have so many good players that you can’t worry about one of us. Like I said, my teammates give me confidence and that’s what I like about them,” Wagner said.