AP

No. 20 Kentucky handles Richardson, topples No. 12 Florida

Sep 10, 2022, 7:41 AM | Updated: 8:56 pm

Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright (15) goes after a tipped pass but can't get there to make the int...

Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright (15) goes after a tipped pass but can't get there to make the interception against Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Much of the hype surrounding Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was dashed, or at least diminished, in the Swamp on Saturday night.

No. 20 Kentucky intercepted Richardson twice, including one Keidron Smith returned 65 yards for a touchdown, and the Wildcats toppled the 12th-ranked Gators 26-16 to notch consecutive wins in the series for the first time in 45 years.

Richardson was off all game, a stark contrast from last week’s three-touchdown, turnover-free performance against then-No. 7 Utah. He had two throws in this one that were complete head-scratchers, and the Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) made him pay dearly.

“I feel like I let everybody down, especially the defense, because I looked everybody on the defense in the eye and I told them I got them and I was going to put up points for them,” Richardson said. “Obviously I didn’t.”

Linebacker Jordan Wright, cleared to play Thursday after sitting out the opener, made a one-handed catch on Richardson’s pass to the flat late in the second quarter. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis scored three plays later.

Richardson’s second pick was more egregious. He misread a defensive alignment and threw a pass to the wide side of the field that Smith easily picked off. Smith returned it down the sideline and had to juke only Richardson to make it to the end zone.

“I think sometimes the quarterback position, you get that spotlight put on you,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “Reality is there’s things around you that can be done that will contribute to quarterback play.”

Richardson’s interceptions were among three big plays that propelled Kentucky to back-to-back wins over Florida (1-1, 0-1) for the first time since 1976-77.

Levis connected with Dane Key for a 55-yard score in the first half, a perfect throw that showed why Levis is projected to be a first-round draft pick in 2023.

“You’ve got to be a tough son of a b to come into this place and win,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said, taking a shot at an SEC Network analyst who called his team soft earlier this week. “That’s what we showed. We may win or lose, but we’re tough.”

Twenty-two scouts from 15 NFL teams were on hand for the game. Most of them probably were there to see Richardson. None of them could have been impressed with what the third-year sophomore did in his third career start.

The Gainesville native completed 14 of 35 passes for 143 yards. He also ran six times for 4 yards. Kentucky stacked the line of scrimmage and forced Richardson to be a pocket passer, clearly understanding that the Gators have few difference-makers outside of their quarterback who looked like a budding star seven days earlier.

Levis was considerably better. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 202 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The pick was a great play by Florida defenders Brenton Cox and Gervon Dexter. Cox pressured Levis and deflected the pass, and Dexter made a diving catch.

But it was Kentucky’s defense that stole the show.

“Defensively, what more can I say?” Stoops said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: The Wildcats are far from soft. SEC Network analyst Roman Harper called the Cats “a little bit softer” than Florida on the Paul Finebaum Show earlier this week, and Kentucky players used it as motivation. Kentucky dominated the second half, outscoring the Gators 13-0.

Florida: The Gators spent the last week getting patted and may have been ripe for a letdown. Regardless, the Wildcats exposed weaknesses and showed Florida still has a long ways to go to catch up in the SEC East.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky should leapfrog Florida in the next AP college football poll.

“Heck, we must jump into the top 10 now,” Stoops quipped.

MILESTONE VICTORY

The victory moved Stoops past Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most wins (61) in Kentucky’s football history.

“I’m glad it’s here,” Stoops said. “You like to be home with family and friends, but we’ll have time for that. We needed this win. Just to get this opportunity. I’ve been given incredible support. It’s been a group effort.”

KEY INJURIES

Kentucky free safety Jalen Geiger was carted off the field in the second quarter with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. Team trainers placed an air cast on his left leg before helping him onto the cart.

Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller, one of the team’s top tacklers, left the game with a lower leg injury. Right tackle Michael Tarquin injured his right ankle and limped to the sideline.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Hosts Youngstown State of the Football Championship Subdivision next Saturday.

Florida: Hosts South Florida next Saturday. The Gators are 2-0 in the in-state series.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

No. 20 Kentucky handles Richardson, topples No. 12 Florida