Column: Why Kentucky/Florida perfectly demonstrated the highs, lows of college football


Kentucky Wildcats defensive lineman Joshua Paschal (4) and offensive lineman coach John Schlarman walk off the field after the UK vs Florida football game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Florida won 29-21. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

It ain’t over until it’s over. That’s college football. 

It’s so beautiful, yet it can be so devastating. Then it’s beautiful again. 

….And then comes more devastation. But isn’t that what we love about it? The hype, the thrill, the heartbreak? The week three Kentucky-Florida matchup embodied everything that’s beautiful about the game—while showcasing everything you hate to see. 

The expectations for Kentucky’s first SEC showdown were set sky high. A 2-0, injury-ridden, unranked team heading into week three, matched up against a squad they beat in 2018 for the first time in 31 years. From the other perspective, you have a No. 9 ranked team who hasn’t lost a game in Lexington since 1986. Both teams with something to prove, both with a chip on their shoulder. 

We saw some exciting football within just the first few minutes of the matchup. On the first drive of the game, sophomore safety Tyrell Aijan intercepted a Florida QB Feleipe Franks pass on Kentucky’s own 3-yard line and ran it 22 yards to give the Cats the ball early. Within just three plays, though, the possession was back in the Gators’ favor when UK quarterback Sawyer Smith fumbled and Florida recovered on the 31-yard line. The following drive would send the Gators into the end zone, putting them on the board first all within eight minutes of the game. 

Kentucky wouldn’t respond until the second quarter, but when they did, boy was it fun to watch. The 6-foot-5, 237-pound, flag-drawing king Ahmad Wagner caught a 26-yard pass from Sawyer Smith in the end zone. But he didn’t just simply catch it. As he was being defended by two Gator defensive backs, the long ball bounced off Wagner’s hands, bounced off his helmet, and he somehow caught it as he was almost to the ground. After a review, the call was confirmed a touchdown. Beautiful football. 

Another UK score in the same quarter leaves the Cats with a 14-7 lead at the half. They looked like the better team, but again, it ain’t over until it’s over. 

The third quarter brought the worst part of college football. For the second week in a row, a starting quarterback went down with a bad injury in third quarter at Kroger Field. This time, it was Franks. The Gators decided to go for it on a big fourth and one at the UK 38 yard-line, and the Cats in no way let them have it. Franks attempted to sneak past the Kentucky defensive line and hit a complete brick wall, dislocating his ankle in the process. Fans in the stadium gave him an ovation as he was being carted off the field, and again, showed me how college football can be heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. 

I’m getting carried away with this, so let’s fast forward to the last few minutes of the game. There’s a little over six minutes on the clock. Kentucky’s up 21-16 when Smith throws an interception, giving the Gators the ball back with great field position and little time left. Then Kentucky’s T.J. Carter gets ejected for targeting (the Cats’ second targeting penalty of the game) and Florida scores on the drive. After leading almost the whole game, UK is trailing by one point with 4:11 to go. Smith moves the offense down the field, eventually setting the Cats up for a third and two on the Florida 18-yard line situation. UK running back Kavosiey Smoke gets stuffed at the 17, forcing UK to bring out its field goal unit. 

Cue the heartbreak.

UK kicker Chance Poore misses the field goal, and you could almost feel the energy in the stadium sink below the ground. By that time, there was under a minute left, and the Cats couldn’t stop the Gators from scoring again. Final score: 29-21 in favor of Florida. 

After the game, UK running back AJ Rose was asked what he tells the younger players after a loss like they had just experienced. 

“I just tell them it’s football,” Rose said. “You win some, you lose some. You can’t win every game and even though it was a tough loss and we should’ve won the game, things happen, and things don’t always go your way.” 

He’s right—and that’s what makes it great. So thank you college football, for the highs, lows, and everything in between. Here’s to nine more weeks of excitement.