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

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 20 Kentucky intercepted Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson twice, including one Keidron Smith returned 65 yards for a touchdown, and the Wildcats toppled 12th-ranked Florida 26-16 on Saturday in the Swamp to notch consecutive wins in the series for the first time in 45 years.

Richardson was off all night, 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.

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. Will Levis scored three plays later.

Richardson’s second pick was more egregious. He seemingly 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.

It was the third of three big plays that gave Kentucky 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 throw that showed why Levis is projected to be a first-round draft pick in 2023.

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.

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 vowed to use it as motivation. Kentucky was dominant in the second half, outscoring the Gators 13-0 after intermission.

Florida: The Gators spent the last week getting patted on the back after beating Utah and may have been ripe for a letdown. Regardless, the Wildcats exposed weaknesses and showed Florida still has a long ways to go under first-year coach Billy Napier if it wants to catch up in the SEC East.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

With No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 8 Notre Dame losing at home earlier Saturday, Florida had a chance to move into the top 10 in the next AP college football poll. Instead, the Gators are sure to fall behind Kentucky.

MILESTONE VICTORY

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

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 and driving him off the field.

Florida right tackle Michael Tarquin injured his right ankle in the second and limped to the sideline. Austin Barber replaced him.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Hosts Youngstown State of the Football Championship Subdivision next Saturday. Stoops was born in Youngstown, Ohio.

Florida: Hosts South Florida next Saturday, the Gators’ third home game in as many weeks. Florida is 2-0 in the in-state series, winning in 2010 and 2021.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.