By LARRY VAUGHT
Florida’s 45-0 victory over Tennessee-Martin last week vaulted the Gators up to No. 9 in the Associated Press rankings going into Saturday night’s game at Kentucky.
The Wildcats are also 2-0 but lost starting quarterback Terry Wilson to a season-ending knee injury. Troy grad transfer Sawyer Smith will make his first start at UK against the Gators in a nationally televised game on ESPN that is already sold out.
Kentucky ended a 31-year losing streak to Florida with a win at Gainesville last year but the Gators are favored again this time — and UK’s chances certainly dimmed after Wilson’s injury.
However, the Gators don’t figure to be at full strength, either.
Wingback Kadarius Toney and cornerback C.J. Henderson both suffered injuries in last week’s win. Toney left the field in the first quarter with what apparently was an arm or shoulder injury after getting tackled during a run. Henderson, considered the best NFL prospect at Florida this year, suffered an ankle injury breaking up a pass play in the second quarter.
Veteran quarterback Feleipe Franks was 25 of 27 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns — he also did not have a pass intercepted. Florida had 543 total yards of offense, including 231 rushing. Six different players scored touchdowns for the Gators.
Florida’s defense also showed the problems it could pose for UK with its first shutout in three years. The Gators limited the Skyhawks to 194 total yards and just eight first downs. Florida had five quarterback sacks, 10 tackles for loss and one turnover.
Smith insisted he would not be overwhelmed agains the Gators and that the UK staff had spent time making sure he was prepared in case he was needed.
“At this level of football you have to have two or three guys ready to go,” Smith said. “I think they have confidence in me to keep it going and that’s how it should be.”