Pressure is on Gators to keep streak going


First-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is using Florida's 26-game winning streak in the series as motivation for his players. (The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:09 p.m.

Promise not to laugh.

Please, take this seriously. Really.

I think Kentucky has a big advantage in tonight's game against Florida. Why?

Because the Gators have won 26 straight against the Wildcats.

No, I have not lost my mind. Well, not all of it.

Here's my theory — all the pressure is on Florida to win because the Gators don't want to be the team that ends the streak. On the other hand, Kentucky players should have extra motivation to end a streak that seems unfathomable in these days of college football parity.

“I addressed it with the players,” said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. “I talked about it. Our message has been to control what we can control. If they want to use it as motivation, go right ahead.”

Advantage Kentucky, right?

Of course, there are those 26 straight wins.

“Yeah, 26 is a lot isn't it?” said Steve Spurrier, who inflicted 12 of those losses on the Wildcats. “They're capable. Mark Stoops has those guys playing with a lot of energy.”

And they have the motivation, right?

“You could use it a little bit,” Spurrier said. “I'd rather be on the winning side of that streak, wouldn't you?”

Well, who wouldn't?

But those 26 games aren't going to help a battered Florida team tonight. Many of the players have enjoyed one, two, three wins in a row over Kentucky. The previous games are ancient history, some of them played before these Gators were born.

The most amazing stat about the streak — on the day it began, I turned 33 years old. Maybe it's not amazing to you, but it is to me. I still had my prostate, my left hip and some energy.

A lot has happened during the streak. That first game pitted Galen Hall against Jerry Claiborne. Since then, five other coaches have won for Florida (Gary Darnell, Spurrier, Ron Zook, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp). Five other coaches have lost for Kentucky (Billy Curry, Hal Mumme, Guy Morriss, Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips).

There have been close calls, obviously, especially 1993 and 2003. If you believe in numerology, Florida should pull out a close game that appears to be lost.

The streak is the second longest active one in college football (Penn State has won 30 in a row over Temple) and it is the longest uninterrupted active streak.

Part of the reason for the streak is that Kentucky hasn't been very good, and when it has been, Florida has been better. During the streak, Kentucky is 9-89 against ranked teams. During the 26-year run, Florida has won three national titles and eight SEC titles while Kentucky has not finished above .500 in SEC play.

Does all of this mean something? Might it give the Gators a little confidence heading on the road?

“We're all motivated differently,” Muschamp said. “It's not something I've addressed with our football team. Some of them don't know about it. None of those games have anything to do with (tonight).”

Maybe. Maybe not.

All we know for sure is that this Florida team is hurting and the Kentucky fans know this is one of their best chances to end the streak. The Gators have lost their starting quarterback and their best player on defense in the last eight days. Somebody in Louisiana must be sticking pins into an orange-and-blue voodoo doll because if no other Gators suffer injuries this year, Muschamp's starters will miss a total of 53 games this season.

And Stoops, whose brother went 3-0 as UF's defensive coordinator against Kentucky, has not lost one game of the streak.

Kentucky fans are excited about Stoops. They know it is going to take time. But they also know tonight is an opportunity to end a lot of suffering at the hands of the mighty Gators.

At the same time, Florida players and coaches know that a loss tonight would severely cripple any hopes that are flickering after all of the injuries.

And that's all that really matters.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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