By LARRY VAUGHT
Since I am not exactly sure how to describe Kentucky’s 29-21 loss to Florida Saturday night, let me turn to the words of former UK coach Rich Brooks the he shared on Twitter after the game.
“This loss makes me sick,” Brooks posted
Kentucky fans, players and coaches should agree. Kentucky had 21-10 lead going into the quarter with a third and less than a yard to go for a first down deep in Florida territory. An A.J. Rose run lost half a yard and then on fourth down UK went into the Wildcats formation with Rose and did not get close to making the first down.
That enabled Florida to rally being backup quarterback Kyle Trask after starter Feleipe Franks was knocked out of the game with a broken ankle to take a 22-21 lead. Even then UK had a chance to win when Sawyer Smith, making his first start after Terry Wilson was injured last week, drove UK into Florida territory.
Kentucky was in no hurry once it got into field goal range and three straight runs left UK about two yards short of a first down. Myself I would have thrown the ball at least once to 6-7 Ahmad Wagner, who had a spectacular first-half touchdown catch. Instead UK ran the ball to put the game on the back of redshirt freshman kicker Chance Poore. He had plenty of leg on the 35-yard try but pushed it right.
So instead of a win over No. 9 Florida, UK gave up 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and missed a likely game-winning field goal. Sure, two targeting calls hurt UK but up 21-10, officials don’t cost a team a win.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops offered no excuses and didn’t blame anyone, including Poore, unlike UK fans who felt the coaches got too conservative on both offense and defense in the fourth quarter.
“We lost the game. That’s all you can say,” Kentucky defensive tackle Calvin Taylor said.
Or maybe this game just showed what no Benny Snell and Josh Allen means. The last two years, Snell was one on short yardage situations and could control a game in the fourth quarter. On defense, when UK needed a big play, Allen often made it. Kentucky has to wait for someone to hopefully grow into those roles.
“There’s an awful lot of plays in the game and you never know which play is going to decide the outcome and there was a bunch in there that will jump out at all of us that go our way or don’t get a penalty, things of that nature, you know, can change the outcome of a game,” Stoops said.
“It’s situational football. We played very, very good football at times, and in certain situations, we’ve got to get better and execute better. Game comes down to inches. We’re short on the fourth down when we were up 11 and come back and run it on third down there and end up with six inches short or whatever it was, eight inches short, and missed the field goal.
“Comes down a game of inches. You know, that ball goes in (on the field goal), or we get that first down, we’re all sitting here saying that’s one heck of a football game.
“It was a quality game. It was a good football game. Two good teams. That’s the ninth-ranked team in the country and our team played — did some very good things, with a backup quarterback that did a lot of good things. I’m proud of our team.”
But as Kentucky fans have got used to hearing and seeing, being proud of the way the Cats play against Florida is one thing while beating the Gators is another. This could have been UK’s first home win over the Gators in over 30 years and UK’s first time to beat Florida in back to back years since 1976-77.
Instead, a few mistakes, a couple of costly penalties and some conservatism on offense and defense led once again to a game the Cats could have won against the Gators becoming a loss.