No. 10 Florida's's hopes of makig the College Football Playoff -- or perhaps even the SEC Championship Game -- were dashed in the Bluegrass State on Saturday night in a 20-13 loss to Kentucky. The upset results in the Wildcats getting their first over the Gators at home since 1986, snapping a 16-game series losing streak in Lexington.
Florida quarterback Emory Jones' pass to Trent Whittemore on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line fell incomplete in the final seconds, leaving the Gators without a touchdown since early in the first quarter.
Kentucky only managed 211 total yards and 74 yards passing on the evening, but linebacker Trevin Wallace returned a blocked field goal 76 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to give Kentucky a 13-10 lead. Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. added a 9-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Kentucky did what it needed to do in order to win the game, but Florida didn't help itself at all. The Gators committed 15 penalties for 115 yards, including eight false starts, in one of the sloppiest games of the Dan Mullen era.
The loss etches Mullen in the Florida record book -- just not in the way he'd like -- as the first Gators coach to lose twice to Kentucky since Doug Dickey in 1977-78.
The win also is huge for the Wildcats, which advance to 5-0 and snap a 15-game losing streak against top-10 teams. The Wildcats had lost 22 of their last 23 against top-10 teams coming into the game.
What are the biggest takeaways from the stunner in Lexington?
1. Florida's CFP hopes are dashed
The 31-29 loss to top-ranked Alabama wasn't excusable, but it was certainly understandable. If Florida ran the table from there, it would have included a win over No. 2 Georgia and likely an equally big win in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. That would, of course, be more than enough to overcome the singular loss.
There's no way that can happen now. In fact, a New Year's Six bowl game seems like a pipe dream at this point.
The Gators are now two games back of Georgia and Kentucky, with the Wildcats holding a head-to-head tiebreaker in their back pocket. Even if Mullen's crew runs the table, the likelihood of that résumé being enough to make it to the CFP is far-fetched.
🚨🚨 BLOCKED FG 🚨🚨— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 3, 2021
Recovered. TOUCHDOWN @UKFootball 🙀 pic.twitter.com/A0cRcB6dtQ
2. It's time to respect Kentucky
Look, the Wildcats aren't pretty. In fact, they're ugly at times. It doesn't matter. They consistently win the battle at the line of scrimmage, play disciplined football and have taken on the DNA that coach Mark Stoops expects and demands.
Rodriguez personifies that identity. The star running back had 99 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, which is nearly half of Kentucky's entire offensive output for the game. It wasn't a secret what Kentucky wanted to do offensively, and Rodriguez still made it happen.
Defensively, the Wildcats stood strong when it mattered most. They held Florida to 4-of-13 on third downs and had five tackles for loss against an offensive line that had momentum coming to the night.
Will Kentucky win the SEC East? Probably not. After all, Georgia is a juggernaut. Is it the second-best team in the division? Absolutely -- which should land them in the AP Top 25 this week.
The roar from the crowd after @CROD_JR's TD run 🔊 ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/ETZb9XFDD6— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 3, 2021
3. This is on coaching
Mullen has plenty of bullet points on his Florida résumé that should earn him national notoriety, but this was one of the worst games of his career at any stop. Eight false starts and 15 total penalties is flat-out embarrassing for a team that has the talent to play at an extremely high level.
It was almost as if Mullen didn't properly prepare his team for what was a loud and raucous Kroger Field. If he did, it didn't show. At some point, a coach has to start making personnel changes if his team isn't working well as a unit.
On the other sideline was Stoops, one of the most underrated coaches in the nation. He's now 3-3 against Mullen going back to Mullen's time at Mississippi State. He's developed Kentucky into one of the most-improved programs in college football, putting them in the de facto SEC East title game in November 2018.
A game like this should launch Stoops into the national conversation for Coach of the Year.