LEXINGTON, Ky. — The ball landed short, so short it was never a threat to history and instead prolonged it. Imagine the bedlam if it had sailed through the uprights instead of spinning harmlessly in the end zone.
Almost in disbelief that they had pulled it off, Florida’s players began running around the field with their arms outstretched, a kind of a “Not tonight” swagger that helped pulled them through a game that somehow happened.
The streak looked as if it were headed the way of the dodo bird, harmlessly vanishing like a puff of smoke from a cheap magician. Instead, it lives on, like a snarling, nasty demon that keeps waking Kentucky fans in the middle of the night from their restless sleeps.
They — they being Kentucky — had this won so many times, but team Cardiac Mac showed again it has a knack. No matter who is throwing the ball or catching the ball or running the ball or making the biggest plays on defense, Jim McElwain’s team is 2-1 when it could easily be on the bagel train.
This was a night when Florida scored twice because Kentucky failed to cover one of its receivers.
How Kentucky is that?
It was a night when the biggest tackle that tackle Taven Bryan made was getting tackled by a Kentucky lineman. As a rule, 57 yards is a lot more difficult than a 42-yarder to win the game.
It was a night of revival for Luke Del Rio and another hard lesson in humility for Feleipe Franks.
So the goalposts came down at Kroger Field on Saturday night just like they hoped they would. But this was standard operating procedure at the stadium where the administration already has seen a pair of celebration fines.
The only fans who wanted to tear down these goalposts were the Gator fans who gutted it out, who hung in there when the streak looked as if it were toast.
McElwain went to 9-1 in one-possession games but if they are all going to be like the last two games Gator fans are going to need to spend the week in oxygen tents.
Do you have any breath left?
Somehow, Florida survived this game when all of the juice in America seemed to be running through this stadium through these Kentucky fans and into these Kentucky players.
There was so much energy in the stands that a couple of times you could feel the floor of the press box moving, which was only slightly unnerving.
They were ready to celebrate and it looked like it was a foregone conclusion. Kentucky was the better team for three quarters, but if we know anything from the 2017 season it’s definitely a four-quarter game.
Even on a night when the defensive coaches were patching together their linebacking corps with duct tape and Flex Seal, they found a way.
Even when they couldn’t cover anyone in the third quarter, they were the ones celebrating at the end.
Even when last week’s hero Franks was swept into the dust bin for Del Rio and Del Rio’s first series of the season ended in a forced interception that felt like it clinched things, it didn’t.
Even when Florida was facing those fourth-down situations on the winning drive. Even when they got a mind-numbing roughing the passer penalty to give Kentucky 15 free yards. Even when nothing seemed to go right.
It eventually did.
Because it always does against these guys.
Chris Doering gets behind the defense. The clock goes to zero and the Gators get a crucial play off. Jared Lorenzen throws the ball up for grabs.
Something always happens.
The stunned fans who finally filed out of this stadium with gnawed fingernails and defeated looks must wonder if the streak will never end.
But Saturday night was not about the streak.
It was about this one — two in a row.
It was about winning a game it should have lost and, for the second week in a row, keeping a season heading in the right direction.
Nobody is saying this is a great team. Nobody is denying this is a very fortunate team.
Here’s all we’re saying — it’s sure more fun to win a game that looked lost than the other way around.
And that Malik Davis showed he’s worthy of 20-carry nights. And Kadarius Toney is fun to watch. And that Del Rio may not have been a difference-maker on the field, but he clearly brought something in the huddle to a team in trouble.
Nobody knows where this team is headed. All we know is that it has something. That something is difficult to define. Guts, grit, gas when it’s needed.
It flew home early this morning with a streak intact and another set of lifetime memories. It’s not how, but how many, right?
Deal with these guys and their flaws and warts and shortcomings. They’ve let us know they won’t go away.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.