Sawyer Smith

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IT’S OVER! Florida ends one-game losing streak to Kentucky; Feleipe Franks injured

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A year after seeing their 31-game winning streak against Kentucky snapped, No. 9 Florida hopes to have started a new streak. Florida’s 29-21 victory in Lexington was all but clinched when a last-minute field goal by Kentucky narrowly missed going through the posts for a go-ahead score. But the win comes with a tough loss as Florida’s starting quarterback Feleipe Franks was carted off with an injury during the second half.

Franks suffered a serious-looking injury late in the third quarter when he was pinned between defenders on a 4th and 1. Franks was taken off the field on a cart after his entire team came out to wish him well. It looked as though Franks dislocated his ankle, and the emotion on his face coming off the field told a not-so-optimistic outlook moving forward.

With Franks injured, Kyle Trask took over at quarterback and immediately went to work. Trask completed four of his first five passes and led the Gators to a touchdown on his first series, with Lamical Perine capping the drive with an eight-yard run for the score. That touchdown meant Kentucky had to keep its foot on the gas pedal for the remaining 12 minutes. Unfortunately for Kentucky, the gas pedal wasn’t quite working anymore.

The Wildcats were forced to punt on the ensuing possession and Sawyer Smith was intercepted on their next possession. That setup Florida to take the lead with a Trask touchdown run from four yards out. The drive was given a boost when a Kentucky player was ejected for targeting. Immediately after the targeting ejection gave Kentucky 15 free yards, Trask completed a 30-yard pass to Kyle Pitts before ending the drive with the go-ahead touchdown run.

Kentucky kicker Chance Poore missed a would-be-go-ahead field goal from 35 yards out with 54 seconds to play, giving Florida the ball back with a chance to ice the game. A 76-yard run by Josh Hammond effectively did that, although Kentucky still got the ball back while trailing by eight points. But Florida’s defense made sure there would be no more scoring by Kentucky for the night.

Florida has now won 16 straight games at Kentucky. The Wildcats missed a chance to celebrate their first home win against Florida since 1986, and their first back-to-back wins against Florida since 1976-1977.

A few of players were also tossed from the game for targeting penalties. In the first quarter, Kentucky’s Yusuf Corker was ejected for a hit. Corker will be eligible play in Kentucky’s next game from the start. His teammate, T.J. Carter will have to sit the first half because he was ejected in the fourth quarter of the game for a hit on Trask (Carter’s targeting penalty led to Florida taking the 22-21 lead). Florida’s Donovan Stiner was ejected in the second half, which means he will have to miss the first half of Florida’s next game. It was the first targeting penalty this season for each player.

SEC play will continue for both teams next week. Kentucky will take to the road to face Mississippi State in a cross-division matchup. The Bulldogs took a loss at home earlier in the day against Kansas State, so they’ll be looking to bounce back from a loss. Kentucky defeated the Bulldogs last season, 28-7. Florida will remain in the SEC East to face Tennessee in Gainesville. The Vols finally got into the win column earlier in the day after dropping the first two games of the season at home.

Kentucky leading No. 9 Florida at halftime in Lexington, 14-7

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A year after ending a long losing streak against the Florida Gators, Kentucky is looking to do it again. In front of their fans at home in Lexington, Kentucky leads No. 9 Florida 14-7 at halftime.

Kentucky started the game with Sawyer Smith at quarterback in place of the injured Terry Wilson, and they have largely kept things within reason with the offensive approach. Smith ended the first half having completed 10-of-13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Smith tied the game early in the second quarter with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Wagner. Smith later gave the Wildcats the lead with a short touchdown run at the end of an 11-play drive that covered 54 yards.

Florida scored the first points of the game on a Feleipe Franks pass to Freddie Swain midway through the first quarter. Franks has been efficient with his passing by completing 10-of-12 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, but he was also picked off once on the game’s opening possession. Fortunately, the Florida defense got the ball back three plays later when they recovered a fumble to set up Florida’s touchdown drive. Franks also lost a fumble, which led to the go-ahead score by Kentucky.

Florida had a chance to cut into the deficit in the second quarter, but a 27-yard attempt by Evan McPherson sailed wide right of the posts to keep the score a 14-7 edge for the Wildcats.

Troy QB Sawyer Smith enters transfer portal

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Troy appears to be heading into the 2019 season with some serious concern with the quarterback situation. Sawyer Smith, who stepped in to lead the offense following an injury to starter Kaleb Barker last fall has announced he is leaving the program.

Smith appeared in all 13 games Troy played last season, in which he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions. Smith also rushed for 191 yards and a touchdown for the Trojans last year as a redshirt sophomore. Smith appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2016 before sitting out the 2017 season.

Smith has two more years of eligibility on the field, although he will have to sit out the upcoming 2019 season as a transfer player if he lands at another FBS program right away.

Four fumbles cost Buffalo in Dollar General Bowl as Troy celebrates third-straight bowl victory

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Buffalo (10-4) had a case of fumblitis in the Dollar General Bowl Saturday night, and it cost them. The Bulls were defeated by Troy (10-3), 42-32, as the Bulls fumbled the football six times, losing four.

In the third quarter, Troy managed to pull off the kind of feat you are probably more likely to see from a triple-option offense like Army. The Trojans managed to keep the Buffalo offense off the field for the entire third quarter. The Trojans opened the half with the football and scored. They then pulled off a brilliantly executed onside kick to keep possession of the football and drove the ball down to the six-yard line. But a fumble by B.J. Smith was picked up by Buffalo’s Tyrone Hill, who raced down the field 93 yards for a defensive touchdown to give Buffalo the lead, 24-21.

Troy’s offense went right back to work on the ensuing possession though, traveling 69 yards over 12 plays to retake the lead, 28-24, on a Damion Willis touchdown reception from the two-yard line. After sitting on the sideline or in the locker room for a little more than an hour, Buffalo’s offense finally got back on the field early in the fourth quarter, only to go three-and-out. Troy would add to their lead on the next drive with a quick three-play drive for a touchdown. Sawyer Smith completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Davis to extend the lead to 35-24.

Buffalo was down but not out. The Bulls charged forward with a 10-play drive ending in the end zone with a Tyree Jackson touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn, and a successful two-point conversion brought Buffalo within three. The Buffalo defense then forced Troy to punt as the time was continuing to become a factor. Starting with the football at their 21-yard line and about three and a half minutes to play, Buffalo’s hopes of another score were quickly tossed aside when Jackson fumbled the ball away. It took Troy just one play to run right up the middle for a dagger of a touchdown with Sidney Davis reaching the end zone on a 20-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

Although this was the most successful season in Buffalo history, the Bulls see their season left unfulfilled. Buffalo lost the MAC Championship Game against Northern Illinois that came into the game with five losses and then end the year with a loss in a bowl game. Buffalo’s search for their first bowl victory in program history continues. Things may have ended on a sour note for Buffalo this season, but that should not take away from the continued success head coach Lance Leipold is having with the program. In his fourth season on the job, Leipold has coached Buffalo to a school-record for wins in a single season and the bar has been raised moving forward.

Neal Brown continues to be doing a solid job at Troy as well. The win over Buffalo clinched a third-consecutive 10-win season for the Trojans, each finishing with a victory in a bowl game. Troy has gone a combined 31-8 in the past three seasons after going 4-8 in Brown’s first season as head coach of the program in 2015.

The loss by Buffalo dropped the MAC to a woeful bowl record of 1-5 as the conference wrapped up its bowl schedule. Ohio scored the only bowl victory for the conference this season while the rest of the MAC’s bowl teams lost by a combined 70 points, including losses by both division winners in the conference this season. The Sun Belt Conference has one more team in action this bowl season (Arkansas State), and currently holds a bowl record of 3-1. The win by Troy clinched a winning bowl season for the conference for the third straight season (11-4 in bowl games since 2017).

Buffalo leading Troy at halftime of Dollar General Bowl despite rash of turnovers

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Buffalo has managed to avoid not letting three first-half turnovers cost them too much. The Bulls have lost the football three times but the defense has held strong by allowing just one score off the turnovers as Buffalo is leading Troy at halftime of the Dollar General Bowl, 17-14.

Buffalo and Troy each took advantage of big plays to get the game off and rolling with some point son the first two drives of the game. On the game’s opening possession, Buffalo receiver Antonio Nunn hauled in a tipped pass for a 51-yard gain that would setup the Bulls for a touchdown run by Jaret Patterson a few plays later.

Troy didn’t wait long to even things up. On the third play of their first offensive series, Sawyer Smith unloaded for a deep pass down the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown strike to Tray Eafford.  Troy would have a chance to take the lead after Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson unwisely tried forcing a pass against his body as he was rolling to his right. The intercepted pass by Cedarius Rookard and a return of 18 yards gave Troy the football at the Buffalo 37-yard line. However, the Trojans were stopped short on a fourth-and-one from the four-yard line, allowing Buffalo to escape.

Buffalo once again took the lead in the second quarter with a short touchdown run by Kevin Marks on the goal line. Troy would tie the game up later in the second quarter, this time being able to capitalize on a Buffalo turnover. After recovering a fumble by Patterson, Troy put together a good eight-play drive to travel 42 yards ending with Smith finding Damion Wilis for the game-tying touchdown.

It looks like we could have a good bowl game on our hands this evening, which feels like a bit of a rarity early on this bowl season.