GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Kyle-to-Kyle connection returned in a big way after a two-week hiatus and put the sixth-ranked Gators on the verge of the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Kyle Trask found Kyle Pitts for three touchdowns, including a 56-yarder in which the star tight end ran away from a cornerback, and Florida overcame a sluggish start to beat Kentucky 34-10 Saturday in the Swamp.
It was Pitts’ first game since suffering a concussion and breaking his nose on a vicious hit against Georgia. Trask wasted little time reconnecting with his favorite and most talented target.
Trask has 34 TD passes this season, moving him past 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and into a tie for third on the school’s single-season list. Only Danny Wuerffel (39 in 1996, 35 in 1995) is ahead of him. Rex Grossman also threw 34 in 2001.
Trask did break one of Wuerffel’s records Saturday. He became the first player in school history with at least three TD passes in eight consecutive games, topping Wuerffel’s mark of seven set in 1996.
Trask is on pace to pass Wuerffel for TDs, too, and it could happen in his final two regular-season games. More importantly for Trask and the Gators (7-1), though, is they can clinch the East Division with a victory at Tennessee next week.
The Gators will want to avoid another lackluster start in that one. The Wildcats (3-6) kept Florida’s high-scoring offense in check for the first half, thanks partly to a fumble and a dropped third-down pass.
Kadarius Toney turned the game by taking advantage of a huge mistake by All-American punter Max Duffy. Kicking from their own 10-yard line, the Wildcats called for a kick left, but Duffy shanked it right.
Kentucky’s coverage unit surrounded Marco Wilson on the left while Toney caught the ball on the right with no one near him and went untouched for a 50-yard score that put the Gators up 14-10 with 42 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats added to their self-inflicted woes with three straight penalties to start the third quarter, giving Florida 39 yards and setting up Trask’s second TD pass to Pitts.
Kentucky: The Wildcats played without leading rusher Chris Rodriguez for the second consecutive week and averaged 3.4 yards a carry. It was far from ideal for a team built to run the ball and stay in short-yardage situations on second and third downs.
Florida: Coach Dan Mullen will have plenty to address after a second straight ho-hum performance. The defense struggled early and offensive miscues put the Gators in an early hole. But Trask, Pitts and Toney helped mask many of the team’s flaws.
Florida recognized two retiring writers at halftime, presenting Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley and beat writer Robbie Andreu with Gators swag and invited them to the team’s home finale against LSU in two weeks as guests. Dooley and Andreu are best friends who spent much of the last three decades covering the Gators. Former athletic director Jeremy Foley and retired coach Steve Spurrier were on hand for the celebration.
Kentucky: Hosts South Carolina next Saturday. The Wildcats have won five of the last six meetings.
Florida: Can wrap up the East next Saturday by beating Tennessee for the 15th time in the last 16 years.