Gators rally to defeat Wildcats, extend win streak to 31 games

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Brandon Powell
Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell scores a touchdown during the second half of a game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Somehow, someway, The Streak lives.

Just when it appeared an almost certainty that Kentucky would snap its 30-game losing streak to Florida, the Gators came back from the dead with a 14-point fourth quarter to stun the Wildcats 28-27 before a sellout crowd of 61,000 at Kroger Stadium on Saturday night.

“Well, that was fun,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “You could feel it on the sideline that they didn’t have any quit in them.

“That’s a tight locker room. We’re starting to gain some leadership.”

The Gators rallied from a 27-14 deficit behind No. 2 quarterback Luke Del Rio, who replaced the struggling Feleipe Franks midway through the third quarter.

Trailing by 13, the Gators (2-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC) cut the deficit to 27-21 with 7:58 to play in the game on a five-yard TD run by Brandon Powell out of the wildcat formation. The score was set up by a 50-yard pass from true freshman wide receiver Kadarius Toney to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland that moved the ball to the UK 30. Toney took the ball on an apparent reverse, pulled up and threw a strike to Cleveland.

Following a three-and-out stop by the Florida defense, Del Rio and the offense went back to work on what would become the game-winning drive.

The winning score came on a 5-yard pass from Del Rio to a wide open Freddie Swain in the right corner of the end zone with 43 seconds remaining.

The Gators converted two fourth downs to keep the drive alive — a fourth-and-three from the 40 and a fourth-and-one from the 21.

On the first fourth down, Del Rio scrambled to his right and at the last second found running back Mark Thompson open over the middle for 10-yard gain to move the ball to the 30.

“That was a veteran play there (by Del Rio),” McElwain said.

A few minutes later, the Gators converted the second fourth down with a seven-yard run by true freshman running back Malik Davis.

Two plays later, Del Rio found Swain uncovered in the end zone for the 5-yard TD pass. Place-kicker Eddy Pineiro added the extra point to give the Gators a 28-27 lead.

Kentucky (3-1 and 1-1) still had enough time to move into position for a possible game-winning field goal, especially after the first play, when an 11-yard pass play coupled with a roughing the quarterback call on defensive end Jabari Zuniga, quickly moved the ball to the UF 49.

The Wildcats appeared to move to the UF 25 moments later, but UK was called for holding. One play later, UK’s chance for victory — a 57-yard field goal attempt by Austin MacGinnis — fell a few yards short, making the improbable UF comeback complete.

“We played unbelievably hard tonight, playing winning football,” UK coach Mark Stoops said. “I really appreciate them, the way they put themselves in a position to win the the football game. Our players laid it on the line.

“There’s quite a few plays in games and you never know which ones are going to decide the game. It’s very disappointing that we didn’t come up with those plays.”

The Wildcats put the Gators on the ropes with a dominant third quarter.

Tied at 14-14 at the half, the Wildcats took command coming out of the locker room. Producing big chunk plays in both the running game and passing game, the Wildcats surged to a 27-13 lead with a 23-yard TD strike from Stephen Johnson to tight end C.J. Conrad and field goals of 42 and 50 yards by MacGinnis, the second coming with 11:33 left in the game.

McElwain then decided to bench Franks, last week’s hero, came after the struggling offense had consecutive three-and-outs to open the second half, with one of those failed third-down plays nearly turning into an interception on a tipped ball.

“Well, we just felt we needed a jump-start a little bit,” McElwain said. “And Feleipe didn’t do anything wrong.”

 Even though Del Rio threw an interception in his first possession, his presence seemed to light a fire under an offense that seemed lifeless at the start of the second half.

With Franks the offense did just enough in the first half to make it a 14-14 game.

Toney scored on a 36-yard run out of the wildcat in the first minute of the second quarter to make it a 7-7 game.

After UK took a 14-7 lead on a nine-yard TD pass from Johnson to Garrett Johnson, the Gators responded with a 45-yard TD pass from Franks to Cleveland, who like Swain on the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter, was left uncovered by the Wildcats’ secondary.

Only a week after throwing the game-winning 63-yard TD pass to beat Tennessee on the final play, Franks did not make it very deep into the third quarter before he was pulled.

Franks and the offense seemed to come on in the second quarter, and Franks completed seven of nine passes for 85 yards and the TD for the half.

But once it became apparent that the offense was going nowhere in the second half, McElwain made the game-altering change by going with Del Rio, who would appear to be the Gators’ starting quarterback now. McElwain said after the game that the QB situation would be evaluated.

Del Rio finished the game with nine completions in 14 attempts for 74 yards and a touchdown.

There were many offensive bright spots for the Gators in the fourth quarter. One that sticks out was UF’s ability to run the ball on the nation’s third-ranked rushing defense, especially in the fourth quarter. The Gators ended the night with 186 yards rushing.

The Gators were led by Davis, who gained 93 yards on 21 carries and had some critical runs in the fourth quarter, including the seven-yarder to convert a fourth down on the winning drive.

“I think we hopefully gained a little confidence up front,” McElwain said. “I was proud of the last drive that we didn’t go to thinking we had to throw it every down.”


THREE THINGS

1. The Gators rallied from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory and extend their winning streak against the Wildcats to 31 games.

2. Former starting quarterback Luke Del Rio came off the bench midway through the third quarter, a move by coach Jim McElwain that sparked what had been a dormant offense.

3. On the final play of the game, UK place-kicker Austin MacGinnis attempted a potential game-winning 56-yard field goal that fell several yards short.

— Robbie Andreu


 


Up next

Who: Vanderbilt vs. Florida

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


38 COMMENTS

    • Mac has to go? After taking a program in disarray and winning the East twice and on track to win it again? That’s one dumbass statement. You may not like how they win but a ton of people said we would lose that game but we still won. Were you expecting us to blow them out? Jesus, some Gator fans make us all look like idiots. I guess Penn St needs to fire James Franklin too. They won with 2 seconds to go. FSU definitely needs to fire Jimbo Fisher, they are 0-2 after supposed to have completed for a national championship. Dan Mullen needs to go at MSU. They, like the Gators, went on the road to a hostile SEC environment and, unlike the Gators, got their butts kicked up to the back of their necks. Wow. Some Gator fans are just plain stupid. Put the whiskey bottle down, do intelligent Gator fans a favor, and go root for someone else.

      • I don’t think jh learned a thing from any of that. Ignorance can be cured, but stupidity is forever. 😉

        A lot of that game was painful to watch, no argument there. Tackling, or lack thereof, tops the list in my opinion. But, coming back from a 13 point deficit with 10 minutes remaining, in an SEC road game … that’s pretty special. I pity anyone who is incapable of enjoying moments like that.

        And soon, I will pity Vanderbilt!!

        GO GATORS!!!

        • It was painful to watch. It looks like many of our young DB’s are soft and don’t want to tackle. I hope Mac fixes that with next years recruits. Maybe Mac is being too soft on the players. I mean all I have to go on is watching how soft many of our players were and the blame has to go somewhere. I will hate to see what Georgia and maybe even Alabama does to us. We just aren’t as physical of a team as we need to be in the SEC. This is going to be a difficult season to be sure. GO GATORS!

    • If anyone needs to go, it’s Nussmeier, but needless to say, the head coach shoulders that responsibility of retaining him. Nuss can’t read defenses, doesn’t adjust, and seem to create a real identity for this offense by what appaears to be his constant “ad-libbing” his way through a calling a game. He’s holding this offense back imo.

      But Mac needs to seriously tweek his staff after this season, especially at OC and Strength and Conditioning. It just scares me with Nuss at OC, because we’re just a game away from another blow-out loss because the offense can’t do anything. We have a young defense this year and the offense HAS to start pulling it’s weight. On S&C, this team appears too “soft” at times, and needs to toughen up physically.

      This Uk team was average at best and they nearly beat us. We should have won comfortably by 14+ points, and do not forget folks… the only “good” team we’ve played so far, Michigan, beat the crap out of us.

      This coaching staff needs to step up their game BIG TIME. At this time, UGA would roll over us like a steam roller.

  1. Once again, Gators snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, schedule only gets tougher, I don’t see anything in this team that makes me think they will have a prayer against UGA.

    • Well, Georgia looks pretty good but outside of Georgia and possibly FSU, who is on the schedule that makes the rest of the schedule tougher?? Lsu looks rough. Texas AM looks rough. So who? Other than Georgia and FSU I don’t see any teams on the schedule I hold in any higher regard than Tennessee or Kentucky. Even if we lose to Georgia, we could still win the East and possibly finish the regular season with 2 or 3 losses. I know we aren’t playing very good right now but look around the country. A lot of good teams are struggling to win right now. It’s still early in the season and if we keep progressing, we should be ok.

    • Here’s why I think we still may have a shot at UGA: The last 3 times we’ve played them we’ve had a much more physical O and D line than UGA. Not sure that continues, but it might. For the same reason that UK seems to be hexed but playing UF, UGA has been since 1990 (albeit to much less degree). I don’t know what to think about this team but I love their fight. Winning these close games with 9 players (including 2 prominent stars on offense) isn’t an easy task so give Mac a bit of credit. If we beat Vandy at home then we’ve at least established some momentum. Plus LSU and TA&M have as many question-marks as UF does, believe me.

  2. We are getting out coached! Every game I see an unprepared, undisciplined team that only gets by with it’s exceptional athletes and some really boneheaded plays by the opposing team. We will not get that lucky the rest of the year. That look on McElwain’s face after the game was not the look of a happy for his team coach it was the look of a snake oil salesman that is in the process of getting exposed. We are so predictable I can sit in my living room a call out the next play. Our offense looks just like Muschamps, we will have to throw the ball beyond the chains to get first downs and if we don’t we will be lucky to finish with a winning record. Why does everyone else take a freshman OB and he looks much better than ours? We have wasted and ruined talented QB’s at Florida for the last seven years. I cannot convince myself we are in any better shape than when Muschamp was here. I feel like I’m being duped!

    • We are 2-0 in the SEC east with a road win against a very good team. That’s cause to celebrate, not bash the team and coach. For every freshman QB that looks good, there are 10 that doesn’t.

      • You can’t tell a lot of Gator fans stuff like that. Too many of them aren’t logical. I’ve been a Gator fan my whole life but as a fan base as a whole, we stink. Gator fans as a whole are embarrassing. From cheering when Driskel got hurt, to chanting Fire Muschamp during the Missouri game with our biggest group of visiting recruits of the year sitting in the stadium, to leaving the 2015 Tennessee game with 9 minutes to go and abandoning the team, they suck. Gator fans as a whole don’t DESERVE a good team. For every Gator fan on here trashing the team I say look in the mirror. If your team is garbage, you get what you deserve.

        • Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater LT. Any program with any success has the same issue. See Bama fan who spiked the AU tree as an example. Those Bama fans wanted to take Hurts scholarship away after the Clemson loss last year cause he couldn’t throw the ball effectively. I agree Gator fans are spoiled, but it’s just the most vocal and they aren’t the majority.

          • You are right. There are a lot of good Gator fans but the last few seasons have really left a bad taste in my mouth regarding the behavior of some of us.

      • UK isnt a very good team. Their 3 wins are against 2 scrubs and SC who isnt very good and barely beat La Tech . They are an average team at best

    • Right. You called the Toney pass. Not likely. And where are all those great freshman QB’s? Eason? What did he do against UF last year? Certainly nothing that brought his team a victory. Bentley? Same story. Gators still won the East last year. It’s true that Fromm just led the Dawgs to a victory over the other Dawgs, but that’s one game, and it remains to be seen how good MSU actually is. Jalen Hurts led Bama to the NC game last year, but that was with his feet, not his arm, and he had a supporting cast of superior athletes brought in by Saban, who’s had time to establish his program. Mac was doing pretty well with Will Grier before the PED suspension. Give him a little more time with Franks, Trask, and Allen before you make a blanket judgement.

  3. Remember how young this team is. Young line backers, young secondary, several new starters on the O-line, redshirt freshman quarterback, best back is a true freshman, etc. They need time to grow and the only way to do that is to play. This team may give us all heart attacks, but they are able to grow and win at the same time. Meyer’s 2006 National Championship team won a lot of close games before they blew Ohio State up. It is hard to watch the mistakes and yes we seem to get out coached often, but if the players can grow together, they will keep us in the hunt for a championship.

  4. My takeaway – The offense works when its led by a player who has full command of the offense. Great adjustment coaches I have been hard on you but I see it now with going into the season with the suspensions, you were behind the 8 ball. Lets see where Del Rio takes the team from here

    • I agree Marshall…I was so down on LDR after last season but now I think he gives us the best chance to win. You could feel like the players sense it too.

  5. Good road win in the SEC! Go Gators! Played a great 4th quarter, but the Gators have NO defense. They’re terrible. How do you give up 4th and 11 at the end of the game like that??? Can’t blame it on the offense this week.

  6. Great comeback victory on both sides of the ball – but

    1. Gators will run the ball on second and long 85% of the time.
    2. Gators must be only team in America with NO middle of the field passing attack.
    3. How in the world can you commit an obvious roughing the passer penalty in he last 50 seconds.
    4. Nuss is awful.

    However –
    Congrats to Toney, Cleveland, Del Rio, Powell, Davis, Thompson and the offensive line for stepping up. There is hope!

  7. Even with a great effort and a great win by my Gators, we still have a bunch of disgruntled fans. Instead of celebrating the win and handing a well deserved bunch of atta-boys to the team, they insist of finding wrongs, Why?, who knows, I guess some people will never be satisfied. All I can say is, I am very proud of the team, GREAT TO BE A GATOR!!!. GO GATORS!!!!!!

  8. Who has UGA BEATEN. They were lucky to beat ND by one. Oh I forgot they beat the power house Miss St. We will find out about uga this up coming weekend. I also feel like UK had a shot to beat them. In the words of the late Denny Green” if you want to crown them crown em” but the puppies are what I think they are until proven other wise.

    • Derek. Watch the game vs. MSU. Georgia dominated a team that completely dominated LSU with a powerful running game (four very good running backs), a timely and effective passing game that effectively utilizes their weapons, a developing offensive line that dominated a very good MSU defensive line, and a defense that does not make mistakes, maintains consistent coverage on WRs, and has extremely fast and talented LBs. Georgia is for real and the Gators will have no chance against them unless the offense makes major strides before that game and the defensive backs get their act together both in coverage and with tackling. They were bad at both vs. Kentucky. Hopefully, Florida will get back some of the nine that are suspended for much needed depth, especially at LB.

    • Derek, did u see ND this week and how they dominated on the field, they are a good team, that was no slouch win for Ga.. We are an average team and thats OK. Randy Shannon’s defense is a step down from every defense we have had since Meyer. He is a step down from all our other DC’s. His secondary is bad. and dont anyone tell me how young they are because for years they have been young, every yea, but our DC’s have made them play great. Our D has been what has kept us in it, every year and now that we have a little better offense we dont have the awesome D!

  9. Rick G. I see your point. However I feel like as far as uga is concerned I’ve seen this movie before. Kirby Muschamp, or Will Smart think about it. I played safety at uga got my first college job at Valdosta St. Made a name for myself as Saban’s DC. Then after that I was given a head coaching job at a traditional SEC east power without any head coaching experience. I am Kirby Muschamp.

  10. Where is that dude Mike Winter? Guess who is ranked number 130th in total offense this week…..you got it. The girl’s school out west. Even Muschamp’s offense could score 35 on N.C. State’s defense.

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