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The Morning After: Recapping Kentucky’s Historic Win Over Florida

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UK Athletics

On Saturday, the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats went down to Gainesville to face off against the No. 12 Florida Gators. It was just the second time in history (1952) that Kentucky and Florida were both ranked in the AP Top 25 heading into a matchup.

To start, the game was a defensive battle, but shortly after the start of the second quarter Will Levis connected with Dane Key for a beautiful 55-yard touchdown for the first of the game and put Kentucky up 7-3.

However, momentum swung mightily in the favor of Florida. The Gators converted on a 50-yard field goal; capitalized on a Kentucky interception, caused by the lack of pass protection; converted a two-point play; and blocked a punt for a safety.

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Kentucky did receive some life right before half as Jordan Wright intercepted a pass from Florida’s Anthony Richardson, putting Will Levis in a 1st and goal position. Levis was able to score with a QB draw cutting the deficit to 13-16, but the Wildcats could not convert on the PAT after a bad snap.

Coming out of the half, it was all Kentucky, notably on the defensive end. Kentucky didn’t allow Florida to score at all in the second half, as Kentucky went on to kick a field goal and score a touchdown.

In a game full of emotional swings, Kentucky left the Swamp with a 26-16 victory.

For the first time in over 40 years, Kentucky won their second in a row against the Gators, and Mark Stoops passed Paul “Bear” Bryant in all-time wins at Kentucky.

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Let’s take a closer look at the historical win.

Time to start worrying about the offensive line

It was clear to see that the offensive line did not perform well against Miami (OH). However, Mark Stoops insisted that the offensive line performed better than originally thought when looking at the film and there were some adjustments that could be made to solve the issues.

That was not the case.

Despite performing well when he had time in the pocket, Will Levis wasn’t given that luxury very often, being under pressure more than not. In addition, Kentucky rushed for just a total of TWO yards, and the offensive line allowed three sacks in the first half alone. This was worsened at times when tight ends had to be used as receiving targets instead of blockers.

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It does need to be noted that the offensive line did step up in the second half, but it needs to be consistently seen in the next two games, as Kentucky faces inferior opponents.

Seeing how the offensive line has performed thus far, it looks like the offensive could be a weakness for the remainder of the season and a group that the staff will begin to recruit immediately.

Will Levis is on a different level than Anthony Richardson

Billed as the battle of the quarterbacks, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson was the head-to-head matchup that everyone wanted to see.

In the end, it was clear that Levis was simply on a different level than Richardson. I will just leave this comparison here.

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Will Levis: 13-24, 202 passing yards, 1 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 1 interception.

Anthony Richardson: 14-35, 143 passing yards, 4 rushing yards, 2 interceptions.

This is going to be a passing team

While they struggled running ball for much of the game, Kentucky found success in the passing game early as Levis threw for a total of 202 yards. Even more impressive, Kentucky had eight different players with a reception, showing the versatility they have in the passing game.

Without Chris Rodriguez, one should expect this to continue, but Kentucky’s success in the passing game should help setup the running game develop.

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On Saturday night, Kentucky’s passing attack allowed for the rushing to find some life in the second half, with Kaviosey Smoke leading the way. It was much needed when you see that the Wildcats had just 70 rushing yards – fighting back from negative 37 yards in the first half.

Tight ends emerging as major receiving targets

The wide receivers shined bright last week, but this week it was the tight ends. Three different tight ends caught a pass – Jordan Dingle (2), Brenden Bates (2), and Keaton Upshaw (1) – for a total of 74 yards.

This was expected when Rich Scangarello – who comes from a 49ers offense that is heavily reliant on multiple tight-end personnel – was hired. With the talent at the position, it is good to see them becoming a large part of the offense.

The defense was phenomonal

Without the defense, the game would could have very well gotten out of hand in the first half. However, the defense was able to step up as they have time and time again and made some big time plays.

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As Florida jumped out to a 16-7 lead with all momentum, things looked bleak, but that was when the Wildcat defense changed the game. Here is what Brad White’s defense accomplished in the final 35 minutes.

  • Zero points allowed
  • 91 total yards
  • Seven points scored (on a Kentucky pick-six)
  • Two takeaways
  • Two fourth down stops

It all started with Jordan Wright – just cleared to play on Thursday – when he made an impressive interception that led to a touchdown to cut the Florida lead to 13-16 right before halftime.

https://twitter.com/FTBeard7/status/1568761357268586496?s=20&t=64jQ4RmSUfARWRfdXz8cZg

In the second half, Keidron Smith made the play that gave Kentucky the lead and the Wildcats never looked back.

It is not an exaggeration, without the great play of the defense, Kentucky loses to Florida.

Special teams Errors

After last week’s performance, special teams looked to be a strength. While that may still be the case for the rest of the season, it was not on Saturday night.

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In the first half alone, Kentucky had two bad snaps resulting in a safety and a missed PAT. These mistakes caused Kentucky three points and without them, the game could have gone into halftime tied 14-14.

With plenty of close games left on the schedule, Kentucky can’t afford to shoot themselves in the foot as they did at times against Florida.

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FB Recruiting

Four-Star Safety, Top 200 Recruit Martels Carter Jr. Commits to Kentucky

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2025 Four-star safety Martels Carter Jr commits to Kentucky Wildcats over Auburn, Colorado, and Louisville.
UK Athletics

YAHTZEE!

The Kentucky Wildcats have added the top-ranked player in the state and one of the top safeties in the country to their 2025 recruiting class.

On Saturday, Martels Carter Jr. announced his commitment to the Wildcats!

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“BBN I’M HOME”

A unanimous 4-star prospect and top 20 safety nationally, Carter chose the Cats over finalists Auburn Tigers, Colorado Buffalo, and Louisville. He also held offers from some of the biggest programs in the sport, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon among others.

Originally from Chattanooga, TN, Carter moved to Paducah last summer where he starred for Paducah Tilghman High School, helping them to an undefeated regular season and a deep run in the 4A state playoffs, falling in the semifinals.

While it’s okay to celebrate his commitment, it will still be a battle until signing day. Auburn is seen as Kentucky’s biggest threat with Carter planning multiple visits, and he also has a family connection to Deion Sander’s Colorado program.

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That said, he will almost certainly take an official visit to Kentucky this fall. Vince Marrow has made Carter a priority of this class and will do everything in his power to retain the talented defensive back.

Carter makes the sixth commitment for Kentucky’s 2025 class, to go along with two talented offensive players and fellow four-star recruits Quintin Simmons Jr (WR) and Marquise Davis (RB).

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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REPORT: Liam Coen Leaving Kentucky for NFL Offensive Coordinator Position

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UK Athletics

On the eve of a huge recruiting weekend for Kentucky football, the program has received some bad news. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen is leaving for the NFL again, this time taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator position.

When Coen returned to Kentucky last offseason from the Los Angeles Rams, for his second stint as offensive coordinator, he talked about Lexington being a place that he and his wife had missed. In his return press conference, on January 12, 2023, he went as far as saying he wanted to be somewhere for a “few years”, at least.

“I want to go somewhere, make a real impact. Plant some roots for a little bit. Be somewhere for a few years — at least — that you feel really good about. I’m excited about being back in Lexington… I’m not in a rush to go anywhere.”

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That “few years” was just a year, but to be honest, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. After many games last season, Coen talked to the media with frustration about fundamental things such as lack of discipline and dropped passes. Even then, it always felt he was holding his words back. With his name circulating around multiple NFL jobs, it was clear this was the direction it was heading.

Now for Kentucky, it’s about getting the next hire right. In a time where offense is becoming the premium in college football, going through five offensive coordinators in ten seasons is not ideal. Paying $1.8 million to Coen, they have shown they will pay amongst the top in the country. Now, go get someone who keeps this core of offensive talent, can recruit, and brings much-needed consistency.

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A Piece of Will Levis’ Historic NFL Debut Displayed in NFL Hall of Fame

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis after his NFL debut.
© Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

During last year’s NFL Draft, Will Levis was one of the last players left in the green room after dropping to the second round. That moment fueled Levis, and he’s since earned the starting quarterback spot with the Tennessee Titans, appearing to have a bright future with the team.

Entering the season with no shortage of motivation, Levis entered the franchise as QB3 and wasn’t even on the active roster for the first six weeks of the season, being deemed the “emergency quarterback.” However, following an ankle injury to Ryan Tannehill in Week 6, the Titans gave their rookie quarterback an opportunity.

Levis certainly capitalized and had one of the best debuts in NFL History, throwing for 238 yards (19/29 passing) and four touchdowns. From the game, Levis has been put in the Hall of Fame. Well, at least his Houston Oiler throwback helmet from the performance has been placed on display in the Hall of Fame’s “Pro Football Today Gallery.”

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Levis started his career with a bang and had his moments. The former Kentucky Wildcat will look to build on his rookie campaign, going into a year where he should be the starter under new head coach Brian Callahan.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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