Kentucky rallies past No. 10 Florida 20-13 in SEC showdown

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the verge of falling further behind No. 10 Florida, Kentucky quickly swung momentum with several gut-check plays and held on for a memorable victory.

Not to mention, an important one for a Wildcats team with expectations of contending.

Trevin Wallace returned a blocked field goal 76 yards for the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, Chris Rodriguez Jr. had a 9-yard scoring run early in the fourth and Kentucky made a final defensive stand to hold off Florida 20-13 on Saturday night.

The Southeastern Conference East Division showdown was more of a slog than a slugfest for much of the night, and the Gators (3-2, 1-2) were poised to add Jace Christmann‘s 48-yard field goal attempt to their 10-7 lead.

Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal got a hand on the low kick that sent the ball fluttering behind the line to Wallace, who jetted past a tackler on the left sideline and cut back through a small seam to race for the game-changing TD with 6:36 remaining in the third.

“My job is to play like the safety back there in case anything goes wrong,” the freshman said. “The ball got tipped and it came right to me. … I knew what to do when I got the ball. I felt one lineman’s hand brush off me and I knew I was gone.”

Added Paschal: “They gave me some room for me to get inside and jump and make a big play, and Trevin made a bigger play.”

The Wildcats (5-0, 3-0) soon made another to build on their lead.

They turned it over on downs at the Florida 34 to start the fourth quarter but quickly created another opportunity when linebacker J.J. Weaver intercepted Emory Jones‘ pass for a first down at the Gators 29. That set up Rodriguez’s 9-yard TD for a 20-10 cushion with 11:32 remaining.

Florida kept fighting and got within seven on Christmann’s 33-yard field goal with 6:23 left before getting the ball again a couple of minutes later and driving to the Kentucky 5. A 4-yard loss on a pass play and false start penalty moved the Gators back to the 14, but they still had a final chance from the 8 before Jacquez Jones swatted away Jones’ fourth-down pass with 18 seconds left to seal the win.

Fans stormed the field to celebrate as Kentucky beat Florida at home for the first time since 1986 and took another step toward potentially challenging No. 2 Georgia in the East. The Wildcats are 5-0 for the first time since going 10-3 in 2018 and just the fourth time in the past 70 years.

“Never been a part of a team that had fans storm the field,” said Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, a Penn State transfer. “The fans were awesome.”

The Wildcats won despite being outgained 382-211, but got a 41-yard TD pass from Levis to Wan'Dale Robinson in the first quarter and 99 yards rushing on 19 carries from Rodriguez.

Eight false starts comprised more than half of Florida’s 15 penalties for 115 yards. Jones completed 23 of 31 passes for 203 yards, but the Gators were held way below their average of nearly 541 yards that ranked ninth coming in.

“I mean, you’re not going make all the mistakes we made in the course of a game and expect to win,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “You’re not going to win in the SEC doing that.”

BRING THE NOISE

Kentucky’s loud, boisterous home crowd of 61,632 appeared to disrupt the Gators’ cadence and may have contributed to all those false starts. While Florida players chalked it up to lack of focus, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was happy with the edge the noise gave his team. Especially at the end.

“There was another false start, and thank you, fans, for affecting the game,” he said.

THREE AND OUT

Both teams struggled on third down. Kentucky entered the game converting 54% of its chances but made just 1 of 8 against Florida. The Gators were just 4 of 13 after entering with a 50% conversion rate.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida figures to drop a few slots with its second SEC loss. Kentucky made a strong case for joining the rankings for the first time since the 2018 season.

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida: The Gators moved the ball with Jones and Anthony Richardson but couldn’t finish other than their first TD. Christmann’s 51 yard field goal provided an edge, but the block and interception dug a hole they couldn’t climb from. The false starts in a loud environment stalled drives and momentum.

“The main thing that we had to come do is handle the environment,” Jones said. “I think we did part of the game, but we just had too many penalties.”

Kentucky: The Wildcats really had only one sustained drive over 50 yards and committed yet another turnover that nearly cost them until Paschal and Wallace prevented that from happening with a timely special teams play and TD. Weaver’s pickoff proved pivotal in a defensive battle.

UP NEXT

Florida: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Kentucky: Hosts LSU on Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.