Redshirt freshman Will Grier was announced as the starter on Thursday, but after the first quarter, that looked like a questionable call. Grier hadn’t completed a pass and the Gators had 18 yards of offense.
He settled down and played better after the first quarter. There were still moments that need to improve, but Grier ended the game going 13-22 for 125 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He added 12 rushes for 61 yards and one touchdown.
The redshirt freshman’s interception flipped the momentum of the game. The Gators were up 14-3 and had first and goal from the Kentucky five-yard line. Grier tried to float a pass to tight end Jake McGee in the corner of the end zone, but J.D. Harmon intercepted the underthrown ball. Instead of Florida padding its lead, the Wildcats responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive for a field goal.
After fumbling in each of Florida’s first two games, Grier put the ball on the ground again on Saturday but was able to recover it. There were good moments for the redshirt freshman, but McElwain also saw areas that need to be cleaned up this season.
“He did some decent things,” McElwain said. “He obviously has a lot of growing up to do. For the most part, he did a decent job of taking care of the football except the throw in the red zone. We’ll learn from it. That’s why we play the game.”
Grier was able to hurt the Wildcats with his legs on Saturday. With shaky pass protection from the inexperienced Florida offensive line, the Kentucky defensive line was able to get into the backfield and force Grier to move. He rushed 12 times for a team-high 61 yards, including the game’s first touchdown when a fourth-down play fell apart, forcing Grier to sprint and dive to the corner of the end zone.
As the game went on, McElwain thought Grier fell in love with the run too much and didn’t trust his offensive line enough while his receivers ran their routes.
“He did some good things with his feet and got us some plays, but it might’ve got him in trouble as well by not sitting in there and letting the play develop, left some awful big plays on the field,” McElwain said.
SEC Network cameras showed Grier holding his ribs, and sideline reporter Maria Taylor overheard a conversation where McElwain told Treon Harris to warm up. However, Harris never got in the game.
It was the first game this season that Florida played just one quarterback after splitting reps between Grier and Harris during wins over New Mexico State and East Carolina. That would make it seem like Grier is the team’s starting quarterback going forward, but McElwain wasn’t ready to make that proclamation after Saturday’s game.
“We’ll still look at it,” McElwain said. “We just felt the way the game was going, (Grier) was in a little rhythm there. Treon is still in the picture, and he was as excited as anybody about the win. That tells you what kind of character he has and what kind of person he is. They’ll still be competing and getting a bunch of reps.
Freshman running back Jordan Cronkrite, who earned the start on Saturday, tweaked his ankle during the game. Linebacker Jeremi Powell (foot), receiver Chris Thompson (lower back) and receiver Antonio Callaway (ankle) also suffered injuries on Saturday but none of them sounded serious.
“I don’t see us losing anybody,” McElwain said.