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In Battle of the Backups, Florida came out victorious

Feleipe Franks was the talk of the town leading into Saturday’s Kentucky vs. Florida matchup in Lexington. Is he elite? Is he overrated? How does he matchup with Kentucky’s defense? How will his numbers look against those of Sawyer Smith?

Through the first three quarters, Kentucky got their answers. Smith made some mistakes, but overall, he was outplaying Florida’s starting quarterback.

Smith completed his first nine passes of the game – his first incompletion came with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Late in the third quarter, Kentucky held a 21-10 advantage over Florida. But on the final drive of that quarter, Franks went down with a leg injury after being tackled by UK defensive lineman Calvin Taylor. The Gators had failed on their fourth-down conversion, but a much larger problem was developing.

Kentucky players took a knee and fans offered applause while Franks was carted off the field. After the game, Florida Coach Dan Mullen told reporters Franks suffered a dislocated ankle and could miss the remainder of the season. It’s another heartbreaking injury inside Kroger Field, and one you never want to see happen to either sideline.

In many ways, that was the turning point of the game. After Franks was taken to the locker room, Kyle Trask came in to lead Florida’s offense. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a team’s backup quarterback enters the game, following injury or an overall-poor performance by the starter, and quickly commands the game.

“We had a good feeling [of] what he was going to do,” Mark Stoops said of Trask after the game. “We knew he was going to throw it, and you know, he did a good job. Again, it’s a bad time for us to be short some of the secondary guys we were.”

Trask immediately led his team to a six-play, 62-yard touchdown drive following the starter’s injury. His first incompletion came on Florida’s failed two-point attempt. The Cats still led 21-16, but it was clear the momentum had started to shift. Trask’s passing looking impeccable, and Kentucky’s defense wasn’t keeping up with the backup. The Wildcats got rolling again on the next drive, and things were looking up with a big sack. That, of course, was called back when defensive end TJ Carter was ejected for targeting. The Cats were flustered and the crowd was angry. The Gators regained the lead three plays later, 22-21. You know the rest.

The “Battle of the Backups” is a tale as old as time, in Kentucky and otherwise. However, when you actually compare all of the QB numbers from Saturday night, they aren’t that different from one another.

Franks completed 12-of-17 passes (71 percent) for 174 yards; he had one touchdown and one interception. When Trask came in the game, he completed 9 of 13 passes (69 percent) for 126 yards. Combined, Florida’s quarterbacks went 21-30 (70 percent) for exactly 300 yards. Kentucky’s Smith finished the game 23 of 35 (66 percent) for 267 yards. Franks rushed eight times for a total of 27 yards; Smith held the ball nine times for 23 yards. Trask ran just once.

At the same time, what we’ve been hearing all week was proven true – at least for now. Smith can complete a pass, but he struggled with his decision making and reaction time. Florida scored their first touchdown off a Smith fumble; their next three points came from a field goal following an interception. The touchdown that sealed-the-deal came from a fourth-quarter pick.

It was Smith’s first career start for Kentucky, and it happened to align with the Cats’ game against No. 9 Florida. In the grand scheme of things, its probably best Kentucky faced the Gators this week, rather than an even more “must-win” game in the conference. A loss to Florida is a loss to Florida, but it’s hard to point the finger at Sawyer Smith. He certainly shouldn’t bear all of the blame.

Kentucky’s head coach was proud of the way his backup – is it time we stop referring to Smith as the backup? – matched up against tough competition.

“I thought he did some really good things. You know, there’s some plays that we could do over, and there’s some plays that the receivers can help him on, as well,” Mark Stoops said Saturday night. “It‘s just a matter of getting everybody on the same page. I think there’s a lot to build on there. I was proud of the way he went in and played and gave us an opportunity to win this game.”

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

13 Comments for In Battle of the Backups, Florida came out victorious

  1. 4everUKblue
    5:12 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

    Is it just me or has this dead horse been beaten enough?

    • ScoggDog
      5:26 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      Until the coaching staff quits running out to a lead, then shutting down the offense in the second half, then no – the horse is not sufficiently beaten.

    • 4everUKblue
      5:31 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      I agree but I was referring to the battle of the back ups, I do believe we have sufficiently beaten that topic.

    • ScoggDog
      5:36 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah – that horse has been slapped around pretty good. I can agree to that.

    • 4everUKblue
      5:48 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      But you’re on the money otherwise Dog.

  2. Bluebloodtoo
    5:15 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

    We got beat by Florida’s depth. Florida lost players, but the replacements came in and made plays. This is not meant to be a knock on our players, but we got hit hard on our weakest links. Third string, true freshman safety? Freshman place kicker? QB? And yet we controlled most of the game…. still no respect.

    • makeitstop
      5:40 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      Yes but… it wasn’t getting beat bc of depth bc we wore out or were thin, like we used to, but they literally threw out 2 guys with whom we would’ve won the game. That kind of attrition is not natural, not what we used to experience and in this case unfair and improper. That’s why it went from “valiant effort, we came up short” to “we were robbed” and looking for someone culpable. Blaming the coaches in general isn’t fair, they didn’t turn it over, miss FG or take two of our critical defenders out. Ur right, the depth cost us but it wasn’t the same old story, it was worse.

    • Bluebloodtoo
      7:05 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah, I hear you. I guess what I’m trying to say is even though the program is building and everything is going the right direction, we’re still evenly matched just yet. We don’t have the cupboard stocked with viable replacements just yet. Getting REALLY close, but not there quite yet.

  3. Smyrna_Cat
    6:02 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

    This is KSR … this is what we do.

  4. Bluebloodtoo
    7:03 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

    Maybe the thing stoops needs to do stay is aggressive longer to build a bigger buffer until we’re more ready to handle those explosive teams? Or just recognize that a 10 point lead isn’t enough to feel comfy against a top 10 team?

  5. BBNmemberinoh
    9:41 pm September 15, 2019 Permalink

    We not only went conservative on offense {as only Gran can} we also did on D this game. Before Franks went out we chased him and got after him often, Dbacks were aggressive and did ok. I know we had some breakdowns but UF only had 10 points and both were off short drives after our turnovers. New QB comes in and we seemed to go prevent the bomb. We just let them get 8 to 20 yards with no pressure on the qb and no defense near a wr. It was unreal to watch. We made their backup look great, hell my old ass could have made those plays with all that time and wr’s open by 10 yards. Play to win the dang games and quit playing not to lose, almost lost us the Citrus Bowl and did get us last night.

  6. BluKudzu
    8:11 am September 16, 2019 Permalink

    I could not care less about what Gran did or did not do with the offense. He only does what Stoops tells him.

    Coach “What the fvck?” Whites defense is what cost us the game. We are back to leaving the opposing receivers wide open again, so open in fact, we let a BACKUP QB PICK US APART, when he had to come in off the bench.

    There are no excuses anymore. We lost to a team with far better coaching than we have. That is the bottom line.

    Give Stoops another raise.

  7. Dustin Rumbaugh
    9:22 am September 16, 2019 Permalink

    Isn’t it weird in the main picture that Sawyer Smith is getting ready to throw a bomb but doesn’t have his fingers on the threads of the ball? Being a Packers fan I’ve seen Favre throw it like that on little shovel passes but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on a deep throw where there was time to rotate the ball to the threads. Not saying it matters…he was pretty awesome….just kinda weird to see that.