Florida State put up one heck of a fight in the Music City Bowl, using big plays and Kentucky turnovers to keep the game close.
In the end, though, the Seminoles’ lack of depth was their downfall, and Kentucky held on for a 35-28 win in Nashville.
The win was Kentucky’s second straight at the Music City Bowl after defeating Clemson last season. The loss was Bobby Bowden’s first bowl defeat in December.
The Seminoles were playing without 36 players, most of whom were lost due to suspensions stemming from an academic misconduct case, in which a tutor gave student-athletes answers to an online test.
Senior quarterback Andre' Woodson led the potent Kentucky offense, completing 32 of 50 passing attempts for 358 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. The Wildcats ran a hurry-up offense for much of the game, pushing the tempo to take advantage of a depleted FSU defense.
Wide out Steve Johnson came up big for Woodson on the receiving end with seven catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including a 38-yard catch-and-run with 5:19 left to play that proved to be the game-winner.
The score gave the Wildcats a 14-point lead, but quarterback Drew Weatherford and the Seminoles drove 79 yards on a six-play drive to make it 35-28. The score came on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Greg Carr with 2:14 left on the clock.
On the first play of Kentucky’s ensuing possession, running back Rafael Little was stripped from behind, but tight end Jacob Tamme wrestled the ball away from FSU’s Michael Ray Garvin to retain possession.
Florida State would force Kentucky to punt on a 4th-and-1, and took over at their own 20. Weatherford threw his second interception of the game two plays later to UK defender Micah Johnson, but Johnson lost the ball on the return and FSU recovered at its own 16-yard line as the wild finish continued.
Weatherford then completed three of his next four passes—two to playmaking wide receiver Preston Parker—to spot Florida State in Kentucky territory with three seconds remaining.
However, Weatherford’s final pass fell harmlessly to the ground as three defenders swarmed Carr in the end zone.
Parker finished the game with eight catches for 105 yards, while Carr added six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Seminoles also finished with 10 penalties, which cost them 102 yards.
Little led the Wildcats with 152 yards on 28 carries, while FSU’s Antone Smith carried 17 times for 156 yards, including a 59-yard scamper that set up the Seminoles for the score that cut the game to seven with two minutes left to play.
The Seminoles moved the ball on their first possession of the game until Weatherford was stopped short on a QB draw on 3rd-and-2. FSU then made its first big mistake when punter Graham Gano dropped the snap and had his kick blocked.
Kentucky gained possession on the FSU 25 and scored five plays later with a 14-yard strike to Tamme.
FSU answered with a Weatherford touchdown run, his first of two on the night. The score was set up by a Kentucky fumble in the red zone, which Florida State corner Tony Carter returned to the UK 47.
Kentucky would regain the lead, 14-7, on 13-yard Johnson TD catch. But Carter then came up big again for the Seminoles—this time intercepting Woodson deep in his own territory and returning the pick 24 yards for a score.
The Wildcats scored 14 unanswered in the third quarter before holding off the surging Seminoles in the final period.