LEXINGTON, Ky — The Kentucky Wildcats thought this would be the year. The Wildcats were 2-0 and entered the game against the Florida Gators with a head full of steam, brimming with confidence. No way would Florida win their 29th consecutive game against them with a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first start against a SEC opponent.
Except Will Grier looked anything but a redshirt freshman from the second drive of the game on. Florida went three and out — the 17th consecutive game the Gators have failed to score a touchdown on their opening drive — but Grier turned it on and spurned on his team during the second drive.
With a short field following an interception, Kelvin Taylor carried the ball all the way down to the Kentucky one-yard line but was stopped on third down. Jim McElwain put trust in his redshirt freshman and went for it on fourth down.
Grier faked to Taylor and was flushed out to the right with all of his receivers on the opposite end of the field.
It was a foot race.
Grier turned the corner, set his sights on the pylon and went airborne.
“When you see your quarterback laying out for stuff like that, putting his body on the line it gives you a little spark,” senior tight end Jake McGee said.
His body perpendicular to the field, Grier stretched the football just inside of the pylon for a score. The Gators were up quickly 7-0 and the kid making his first conference start showed that he had a little moxie.
The rest of the first quarter was slow. Grier didn’t even complete a pass until the second quarter but would complete 8-of-10 passes for 94 yards in the second. Grier’s most impressive drive of the game came with 5:45 before halftime.
Florida got the ball on Kentucky’s 45-yard line and bled the clock dry. A huge diving catch by McGee on third down and eight saved Florida’s drive and allowed the Gators another opportunity to go for it on fourth down. Kelvin Taylor picked up the first down and Grier found McGee for 18 yards on the next play. Another first down pass went to Brandon Powell before Taylor capped off the 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive with a three yard score. The Gators left just 14 seconds on the clock while making it a two-possession game before halftime.
Grier and the offense as a whole struggled in the third quarter as Kentucky pulled close and made fans believe but McElwain trusted his young passer and Grier continued to make plays with his feet, rushing 12 times for 61 yards and a score.
“I think he did some decent things, obviously he has a lot of growing to do. I thought he did some good things with his feet, got us some plays, but might have gotten himself into some trouble as well by not staying in the pocket and letting things develop.”
It’s going to be a mixed bag with Grier. He’s young and has a lot of learning and growing to do. There will be roadblocks and bumps along the way but Saturday night in Lexington, Kentucky was just a sample of what could be the Florida Gators future with No. 7 running the show.