Kentucky-Florida game with Richardson still headlining

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Anthony Richardson dazzled a crowded swamp during the Florida season opener, delivering more feel-good moments than anyone could honestly have expected.

Long runs, accurate throws, broken tackles, clutch plays, a 2 point conversation, touchdown. It was a standout performance for a hometown kid who suddenly became one of the hottest players in college football.

Now everyone is wondering: what will he do for an encore?


What do you want to know

  • The 12th-ranked Florida Gators have a chance to prove their 29-26 win over then-No. 7 Utah was no accident when they hosted No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) on Saturday night
  • The match launches the SEC game
  • Florida’s Richardson threw for 168 yards, rushed for 106 more and three scores and, most importantly, played flip-and-sack-free football against the Utes.
  • Will Levis, who was mostly a non-factor against the Gators last year and considered a 2023 NFL first-round pick with Richardson, expressed disappointment with his season-opening performance.

Richardson and the 12th-ranked Gators have a chance to prove their 29-26 win over then-No. 7 Utah was no fluke when they hosted the No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) to start the Southeastern Conference game on Saturday night.

“Everything you want in a quarterback, he’s got it,” Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall said of Richardson. “He has a rocket arm. If he wants to throw it all over the field, he can do that. Ask him, he’ll throw it a hundred yards.

Richardson threw for 168 yards, rushed for 106 more and three scores and, most importantly, played football with no rollovers or sacks against the Utes.

Of course, there was a third draft that should have been chosen, but even detail-oriented coach Billy Napier couldn’t do more than nitpick.

“A little nervous at first, made a few mistakes, but eventually worked out well,” Napier said. “He’s his own worst critic now. He’ll watch the movie three times and tell you all the things he could have done better, but he delivered, or so I would say. … I saw a guy who is prepared behind the scenes, who is the product of his labor, and it showed.

Florida was rewarded for their season-opening upset with a rare climb from unranked to No. 12 in the latest AP Top 25 survey.

“Next because you have to beat them to keep going up,” center Kingsley Eguakun said. “And if you don’t, you know what’s going on. … At the end of the day, we have to take care of business.

Kentucky handled penalty-prone Florida last season in a 20-13 win at Lexington thanks in part to the return of a blocked basket for a touchdown. That loss was the start of Florida’s tailspin – losing six of nine to end the season – which led to Dismissal of Dan Mullen and the arrival of Napier.

The Wildcats have enjoyed more coaching stability than Florida over the past decade, with Mark Stoops entering his 10th season. They pulled away from Miami (Ohio) in the second half of their opener win 37-13 at home. Will Levis threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw an interception and was sacked four times.

Levis, who was mostly a non-factor against the Gators last year and considered a 2023 NFL first-round draft pick with Richardson, expressed disappointment with his season-opening performance.

“We don’t need him putting that kind of pressure on himself,” Stoops said. “We love and respect his drive and drive, and it’s obvious. But there can also be added pressure when expectations are high for him.

“We just need him to be him. He is very motivated and plays at a very high level.

RARE MATCHES

It’s an unusual game for Kentucky and Florida: it’s only the fourth time in 73 meetings that the two teams have been ranked. The Gators have won two of the previous three, winning first in 1998 and 2007, while Kentucky’s victory came in 1950.

Florida and Kentucky have played every year since 1967. The Gators won 31 straight before splitting from the last four.

SUBMANUAL CATS

Kentucky will be without running back Chris Rodriguez for the second straight game and could also be without super senior linebacker Jordan Wright again. Rodriguez, the team’s leading rusher with 1,379 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021, and Wright face off-court issues that are beyond Stoops’ control.

“There are layers to this that I’ve been advised I can’t comment on,” Stoops said. “It’s not that I’m trying to hide things from you, but players have rights and things of that nature with this situation.”

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