No. 9 Florida suddenly has challenge with Kentucky QB
Field Level Mediaon
It took just one play to change the narrative of Saturday's game between No. 9 Florida (2-0) and host Kentucky (2-0).
Before that play, the primary storyline figured to be the Gators seeking revenge for last year's embarrassing home loss to the Wildcats -- Florida's first defeat to Kentucky since 1986.
But when a horse-collar tackle resulted in a season-ending torn patellar tendon for Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson last weekend, the narrative for this weekend shifted to how Florida plans to take deal with the challenge of facing a backup quarterback in an effort to gain its first conference win.
"There's nothing worse than watching film and then realizing, 'Hey, that's nothing to do with the team we're playing," Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday. "That can kind of mess with your head, with your reads and what you're seeing."
Sawyer Smith, a graduate transfer from Troy, replaced Wilson in the third quarter and completed 5 of 9 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns to close out a 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan. He entered the game having completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,850 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in two seasons at Troy.
"We'll have to go and try to find some film on the new quarterback, watch what he does," Mullen said. "But they're not gonna just scrap everything. They're going to run their offense. It will just gave a different flavor to it."
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, in fact, says his team will change very little. Though Smith arrived in late summer, he is already comfortable with the entire playbook.
"He's been around a lot of football," Stoops said of Smith. "He's a smart young man, obviously graduated college in three years. He picks things up. He's instinctual. He just needs some reps with the (first team). To get more opportunities ... he'll get better and better."
Smith, a native of Cantonment, Fla., near Pensacola, can't wait for the opportunity.
"It's not fun how it happened, but it's fun to get out there and do what I've been preparing for since I was a kid," Smith said. "Everybody wants to play in the SEC in this region of the United States."
Expect defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Florida, which already has an FBS-leading 15 sacks in two games, to test the new quarterback early and often.
"They're just a very disruptive defense," Stoops said. "They have some game-wreckers up there up front.
"It comes down to getting you in third down, and they do a nice job because they're so physical, they're big and they're strong up front. Then he gets into the exotics, the pressures. So big key is, and one of the big keys for us a year ago, was first-down efficiency. You get 5, 6, 7 yards on first down, then you're in much better shape, and you try not to get behind the chains. You get in third-and-long and you do have a new quarterback, then they are going to be exotic."