First-year Florida coach Billy Napier and new starting quarterback Anthony Richardson were the toast of Gainesville last week after an upset of No. 7 Utah and a leap from unranked to No. 12 in the nation.
And a week later, the Gators found their offense submerged in their own Swamp in a 26-16 loss to No. 20 Kentucky at Florida Field on Saturday night. The Wildcats outscored the Gators, 13-0, in the second half for the win after leading 16-7 late in the second quarter.
“I thought it was a thing of beauty,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said of his team’s second half shutout to ESPN.
Richardson threw two critcial interceptions to turn the game in Kentucky’s favor. Outside linebacker Jordan Wright picked off Richardson deep in Florida territory and returned it 18 yards to the Gators’ 6-yard line late in the first half with Florida up 16-7. Kentucky (2-0) turned that into a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Will Levis for a 16-13 halftime score after a two-point conversion failed.
The Wildcats tied it 16-16 on a 24-yard field goal by Mark Ruffolo midway through the third quarter.
Then Kentucky defensive back Keidron Smith picked off Richardson and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and commanding 23-16 lead with 3:25 to go in the third period. The Wildcats added a late field goal for the 26-16 final, and Florida went silent.
Richardson finished 14-of-34 passing for 143 yards with two interceptions. Levis completed 13 of 24 for 202 yards.
With the win, Kentucky Stoops surpassed Bear Bryant as the winningest head coach in Kentucky history with 61 wins since 2013. Bryant won 60 games at Kentucky in less time from 1946-53.
“Fortunate,” Stoops said. Lot of great players have been through here.”
The Wildcats also won two straight against Florida for the first time since the 1976 and ’77 seasons. Kentucky beat Florida last year, 20-13, at home.