For just the second time in 43 years, Kentucky found a way to win in The Swamp.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the No. 20 Wildcats overcame offensive struggles and special teams sloppiness with an excellent effort on defense in a 26-16 victory over No. 12 Florida.
Of those 26 points, 13 came directly off interceptions of Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Richardson was phenomenal in Florida’s Week 1 win over Utah but struggled mightily in this one. After rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns last week, Richardson was limited to just four yards on the ground in this one. As a passer, he completed only 14 of his 35 attempts for 143 yards with those two costly interceptions.
The first interception came late in the first half when Florida had a 16-7 lead. Richardson rolled right and tried to sling one to his running back but Kentucky’s Jordan Wright made an excellent individual effort. After a return to the Florida 6-yard line, Kentucky was in the end zone thanks to a Will Levis sneak.
Kentucky botched the extra point but was down just 16-13 at halftime.
The Wildcats tied the score 16-16 with a short field goal at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter before going ahead by intercepting Richardson again. This time, Keidron Smith returned an errant Richardson throw 65 yards for the go-ahead Kentucky touchdown.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 11, 2022
It looked like a miscommunication between Richardson and his receiver. No matter the reason for the miscue, it proved costly.
Florida’s next three drives would result in a punt and two turnovers on downs. The second of those fourth-down failures came with 4:02 to play and gave the Wildcats the ball deep in Gators territory. Kentucky drained some of the remaining clock and put the game away with a 26-yard field goal.
With the win, Kentucky has now notched back-to-back victories over Florida for the first time since 1976 and 1977. Kentucky has won three of the last five in the series, including the 2018 win in Gainesville that snapped a 31-game losing streak to the Gators.
On top of that, Mark Stoops passed Bear Bryant on Kentucky’s all-time wins list with the victory.
What does this mean for Kentucky?
From a big picture standpoint, it's significant any time Kentucky beats Florida. As previously mentioned, Florida has owned this series but Stoops has built this program into a consistent winner.
With this season specifically, Kentucky's offense hasn't looked very good in the early going, but UK has found a way to start 2-0. First it was a 37-13 win over Miami (Ohio) that was closer than the final score makes it seem.
And then on Saturday night, UK could muster only 272 yards. Levis made some good throws early but wasn't especially sharp as he finished just 13-of-24 for 202 yards.
Kavosiey Smoke was solid in a lead back role, but Kentucky clearly misses pairing him with Chris Rodriguez, who remains suspended due to an apparent NCAA issue.
The offense has games against Youngstown State and Northern Illinois to clean things up before returning to SEC play at Ole Miss on Oct. 1.
What's next for Florida?
The Gators had a Week 1 triumph by beating Utah to open the Billy Napier era. It was going to be hard to replicate that level of play, especially for Richardson. But this was a surprising level down for Richardson.
UF relied on his legs last week but he barely tried to run in this game. With that element of the offense missing, the Gators couldn't get much going and were shutout in the second half.
Florida getting vaulted up to No. 12 in the AP poll after beating Utah certainly looks like an overreaction, but Saturday night's loss will serve as a big learning moment for Richardson.
The Gators host USF next weekend before traveling to Tennessee on Sept. 24.