Out of the blue: Kentucky ends 31-game losing streak against Florida

33
2071
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks tries to escape trouble Saturday against Kentucky at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Finally, after all these years, the Kentucky Wildcats have found the secret to ending Florida’s long winning secret.

And, as it turns out, it’s no secret at all: Simply put a better team on the field than the Gators.

That’s what the Wildcats did Saturday night in The Swamp, and the result was an impressive and historic 27-16 victory that brings an end to the Gators’ 31-game winning streak in the series.

The difference this time?

The Wildcats were simply better.

Better on both lines of scrimmage. Better at quarterback. Way better at running back. Better in coaching. Better in all phases.

“It ended,” UF coach Dan Mullen said of the streak. “The streak had nothing to do with tonight’s game and it has nothing to do with next week’s game. That’s what happens in sports.

“It’s a tough loss for us. We have to find a way to get better and play next week. That’s where all my thoughts are.”

While it was a grim night for the Gators, it was a glorious one for the ’Cats.

“It is hard to describe the feeling that I’m feeling right now,” UK coach Mark Stoops said. “Just feel so blessed to be the head coach here and to get that victory for truly everybody, most importantly for our players. I told them at halftime and before the game that we were going to win this game in a team effort because they love, trust and believe in each other.”

The final stats are telling.

The Wildcats outgained the Gators 454 yards to 360 and out-rushed them 303-128. And the UF defense missed dozens of tackles that led to some big gains and helped keep the ball away from the Gators’ offense.

“You look at those (stats), and the outcome usually is not a big surprise in football,” Mullen said.

So, there was nothing flukey about this streak-snapping victory.

The ’Cats outplayed the Gators.

Mullen said it’s a tough loss, but one that doesn’t necessarily define the season or the state of the program.

“We’ll see as the season goes on,” Mullen said. “One game never defines anything. That’s one game in a long season.

“Much more importantly to me is not where our attitude is right at this very second, it’s where our attitude is going to be Monday when we show up to get ready for next week’s game.

“I’ll have a better idea at that point where we might be as a program.”

 Despite being dominated on both sides of the ball for three-and-a-half quarters, the Gators still made a game of it in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, making Wildcat fans everywhere probably a little nervous.

Trailing 21-10 and seemingly out of it, the Gators managed to put a touchdown 99-yard drive together despite heavy pressure on quarterback Feleipe Franks. Franks converted a fourth-and-eight.

Two plays later, Franks threw a 4-yard TD pass to Freddie Swain to make it a one-score game 21-16.

The Gators had a chance to draw within a field goal with a two-point conversion, but Franks failed to see a wide open Malik Davis in the right corner of the end zone and threw into coverage to the left for an incompletion.

UF did not see the ball again until there were only 40 seconds left in the game and pinned on its own 6-yard line.

On what turned out to be the final play, Franks fumbled attempting to pass and the Wildcats returned it for a touchdown to put the exclamation on their historic win.  Kentucky hadn’t beaten Florida since 1986 and hadn’t won in Gainesville since 1979.

Franks completed 17 of 38 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception.

“I never felt (he was rattled),” Mullen said. “He didn’t make many bad reads. It (his decision-making) needs to be a little quicker.”

 The Florida defense had no answer for the Wildcats’ two big play-makers — dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson and running back Benny Snell Jr.

The Gators had problems even laying a hand on the fast and elusive Wilson. They got their hands on Snell plenty of times, but then struggled to get him on the ground.

Wilson beat the Gators with both his arm and his legs. His 54-yard TD strike to Lynn Bowden late the third quarter was a dagger. It came on a third-and-16 play where he scrambled out of the pocket, rolled to his right and found Bowden behind the secondary to give the Wildcats a 21-10 lead.

Wilson threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards on 10 carries.

When Wilson wasn’t befuddling the Gators, Snell was shoving the ball down their throats. He gained 175 yards on 27 carries and broke too tackles to count.

While the UK offense went up and down the field, it was a game-long struggle for the Gators.

Senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey said this was a game that was lost in practice last week.

“It starts in practice, “ he said. “You play how you practice. We didn’t compete the way we should have. How hard we practice this week will define what type of team we are.

“We’ve got to go harder than we have been. We’ve got to practice harder. We’ve got to stay together as a team. This loss won’t define us. We’re going to come back and regroup Monday and have a great week of practice and get ready for Colorado State.”


Up next

Who: Colorado State (1-2) vs. No. 25 Florida (1-1)

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

 

33 COMMENTS

  1. Was it out of the blue? People should have given more credence to UK and less to the streak. It so obvious in hindsight.

    Our team will improve as the season progresses. I don’t enjoy seeing such hard lessons play out like they did on this Saturday.

  2. I was shocked at what we all witnessed, we were whipped like a red headed step child. While Franks most likely not be a great QB, he isn’t the problem right now. I was highly skeptical of the OLine and was proven correct, but the lack of defense? Where the heck did that come from? I do think Mullen is a very good coach and if he recruits will bring us back to greatness, just not as fast as we all thought. One more performance like this and Mullen ought to consider playing anyone not a freshman or soph., take your licks and build for the future. Sad times for a great university. Go Gators!

  3. Florida’s offensive and defensive lines looked smaller, weaker and slower than UK’s. You cannot win when the game is played entirely on your side of the line of scrimmage. Florida’s linebackers were invisible and the tackling was almost nonexistent. Can’t blame Franks too much for not going through progressions when he had to run for his life all night. The outcome was pretty obvious after the first few minutes as we watched UK push the Gators all around and run around and through tackles. I would not be confident of this team for the season unless it turns out that Kentucky has finally built a truly good football team and they are better than most of the teams in the SEC

  4. I have to agree with Retired/Soldier, who summed it all up as well as it can be. And, I would add this: We created the hype here, not Dan Mullen. We were the ones who took it from very cautious optimism, laced with a good dose of skepticism, at the end of Spring Practice to the giddy, euphoria we experienced before, during, and after the Charleston Southern game. Our expectations were too high for a 4-7 team, we placed too much emphasis on our new S&C program as if it would magically erase our liabilities, and we got exposed in both talent and heart when we stumbled against the first real test we faced — a lower tier SEC team who pushed us around like lightweights on either side of the ball and wanted the game much more than we did.

    So OK, as Rog has reminded us over and over again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We are not as good as we thought we were, and Dan Mullen never told us we were. This is a bigger job than we led ourselves to believe. Now, how do you think Nebraska feels? It’s worth comparing because the same thing just happened to them against their first real test — a lower tier PAC-12 team that turned out to be better. And, like us, they made a great hire to turn things around. Did anyone read that headline? “MORE PATIENCE REQUIRED”. I doubt they’re throwing in the towel, and we shouldn’t either. It will just take longer than we led ourselves to believe, and while “hope” is neither a tactic nor a strategy, the worst thing we can do right now is give up hope. Let’s get behind CDM and ride it through until we are back on top. Go Gators 🐊🏈!

  5. Years of poor recruiting, lack of development, lack of toughness and discipline are not going to be undone anytime soon. We are in a Tennessee-like rebuild.
    This team is so unfocused that they seem to literally have gotten a big head from pounding crummy Charlie Southern. Lack of focus is the cause of poor tackling, and this was the worst tackling game I ever remember for UF.

    • Bernard. Chauncey-Gardner was one of the very few players who played a very good game last night. He was all over the field making plays. Not his fault that the rest of his teammates did not help him get number 32. And Wilson is done for the year. What a shame. Same ACL tear as in high school per his dad.

    • I am usually very positive leading up to a game. But to me, a player who has yet to prove himself on the field running his mouth was the first sign that team was not where it needed to be mentally following a blow out victory over a cup cake that probably won’t mean anything at the end of the year unless we’re 6-6.

      Chauncey-Gardner running his mouth about a streak that only lasted that long because honestly Florida never bothered to care about Kentucky. Had Florida cared about the streak that much, then Kentucky would have ended at least one of those times the game went to OT and it would have most likely ended last year had Luke Del Rio not been the Quarterback. Let’s not forget the Driskel play which could or should have been a delay of game and ended up into a game saving touchdown.

      That said, the previous staff didn’t do a go job of building strong characters and it shows in the suspensions. So this team has a lot of growing up to do and they need to do it fast before the season unravels! On the other end, it’s a good thing that the loss happens so early in the season so Mullen knows early who are the players who are mentally tough.

      Just like I had a hunch Kentucky was going to beat us, I have that same hunch that this team will turn things around in a dramatic fashion and will beat some very high ranked teams that it face this season. Unfortunately, I don’t see being consistent based on the first 2 games… We could see a big wins against the like of LSU and Georgia followed by mind blowing losses to say SC and Vanderbilt or they could blow out teams then get blown out the following week. Hopefully, they decide to play with a chip on their shoulder and start building their own legacy.

      This season is not and should not about individual players achievements or looking good for the AP polls. This is season is about whether they can work their tails off and improve consistently throughout the season. As I said before, 2018 is about ushering season 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. 7, 8…etc under Mullen. A championship would have only been a bonus for season 1 but it’s not need for the season to be a success. If the players show up and improve every day until January and they DO IT with the Florida Gator swagger, then I’ll for sure remember this team as much as I remember the championship teams! Go Gators!!

      On a side note, I would love to see Trask and Jones get some playing time fast. Even if Mullen wants to keep Frank at the helm, the risk of him getting injured is too high especially with an O line that can’t control the like scrimmage.

  6. I was surprised and certainly over-estimated where this team was at, but as someone said above that’s my fault, not theirs. There is a lot to be learned from that game, and hopefully our guys– and coaches– will learn those lessons and get better. The play calling was not good with all those sideline passes and putting 12 men on the field after a time out– and right before a crucial play– should not happen. So, everyone can get better.

    I just don’t know, though, if these guys have any kind of fight in them. They seem almost reluctant to play football, like it’s a form of punishment or something.

  7. I’ve made the mistake once again to believing the summer time hype. I’m not reading or listening to any off season garbage again. Before I thought franks was the problem, he’s not great, but that line is terrible. Without question the offensive line is the worst in the sec. How do you have that many guys with that many starts and they are still so bad? Pushed around like children on both lines! Looked like Alabama running on us!

    • Matt, I hear you. Personally, I didn’t buy into hype and said it here many times. Mullen needs time to fix the problems of past years and it starts with character building which is ongoing. You can’t win with players who are selfish and don’t understand what it means to be a Gator.

      I did have one hope that this season could be special, however, my hope circled around one player being able to contribute like Percy did in 2016. Unfortunately, that hope was gashed when he got injured. I guess I’ll break my own rule of putting unnecessary expectations on players who have yet to take the field and name that player.. The name is Jacob Copeland. The reason I think this kid could be special is because the kid not only has incredible talent but he is also a humble kid who shows traits from past greets.. willingness to be mentored and wait for your time until you’ve earned it. Plus he grew up a Gator and absolutely bleeds orange and blue.

      Copeland is not another Percy because there’ll never be another Percy but I have no doubt he will be able to forge his own legacy as a Florida Gator. We need a few more recruits like him both on offense and defense to build a dynasty. There are other recruits from the 2018 class with similar potential and hopefully they’ll get a chance to contribute throughout this season.

  8. Running their mouths is not a problem if they back it up, but it does not show maturity. Nothing can be gained running your mouth – you win and you proved nothing more than what you said. You lose and its egg on your face AND the rest of the team’s, thanks to you. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson may have actually backed up his talk himself, but all people remember is the the Gators were running their mouths. Saban has a team full of people at least as good as CGJ at every position, but you don’t hear them running their sewers. They just show up and get it done. Talk is then unnecessary.

    That is part of the attitude problem CDM is facing. The very idea that they didnt practice well is shocking that a team who beat a division II team last week didn’t think they had something to prove more than their Twitter abilities this week.

    Shuffle the O Line. Make people fear for their jobs. Make them show that they want it. The D Line may just be personnel problems, but teach tackling and pull people out of the game when they miss tackles so they think about it. The OBC would but someone in the game saying you think you can block that guy? Then get in their. Didnt always work, but gets their attention. Oh yeah, don’t start ANYONE that talks or tweets about the opponent. That will get their attention too – not up to the Gator standard. Give CDM time and room, including losses, to get this team to change.

    • Well said! Running your mouth is the problem though! It’s immaturity in guys running their mouths since anyone can do it instead of letting your play do the talking and being a man versus a boy and not guaranteeing victories which again anyone can do. I’m sure Mullen is slowly going to weed out the running your mouth and guaranteeing mentality!

      • Exactly, anyone can guarantee a victory and let’s be honest you actually have a 50% chance of being right since there’s only two teams but all it really does is fire up the other team and make them play harder since you disrespected them and why play hard yourself since the victory is “guaranteed”. The whole thing is a joke. It’s not why we lost but it sure doesn’t help and another sign of a team that needs to change it’s mentality etc.

  9. I am a long time Kentucky football fan and honestly, I came on this site with the intent of tagging on you guys unmercifully. But upon reading both the article and your comments, I realized a couple of things that surprised me. First, both the article and (as far as I could tell) all the comments were very evenhanded. There was no whining and I saw no excuses. Basically, all of you stepped up to the plate about this game and I think that’s pretty admirable. One person even appeared to concede that the delay of game no call in the 2014 triple overtime game was likely a mistake.

    I will say that the comments of one person who repeatedly referred to UK as a “lower tier SEC school” are incorrect and only serves to make this loss look worse for Florida than it has to. I think it is fair to say that Kentucky has now become an upper tier SEC team because Benny Snell is not only the best running back in the SEC, he is the best running back in the country. I don’t care what kind of stats that guy at Stanford runs up – he doesn’t do it week in and week out against SEC defenses. I know you guys aren’t happy with the state of your defense right now, but putting up 175 rushing yards against any SEC defense is tough to do.

    My conclusion after last night’s game is that Florida (right now) has trouble running the ball, has trouble defending against the run, has trouble passing the ball, and has trouble defending against the pass.

    That doesn’t sound very good for you all. On the other hand, everybody knows Dan Mullen is a good coach and I can’t see him allowing this team to remain the way I just described them for the rest of this season.

    I still have trouble believing I’ve taken care he tenor I have taken with these comments. On the other hand, being a UK football fan is a really tough row to hoe, we were just blessed with a big win, why mess with karma by being a jerk? Like Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, “you never mess with a streak.” I was going to say “no pun intended” but that really isn’t true because you’ve got to admit, it really is kind of funny when you consider the circumstances.

    Maybe we’ll both get better. Stay cool and thanks for giving us Tom Petty for long enough to hear lots of great music.

    P.S.: had this been a Tennessee, I would have lit you all up big time. Fire in the hole, baby.

    • Thanks for the comments and great show of sportsmanship, Steve. I was the Gator who referred to your team as a “lower tier” SEC team and I’m the only one accountable for that statement. I was making it in a historical sense only; if Kentucky has indeed progressed then I say good for them…..they were certainly the better team Saturday night. You’re welcome, as far as I’m concerned, to post here any time, bud.

  10. How do you build hunger, desire and relentless effort on this team at this point?
    I believe this team has the physical tools to win. It’s mostly between the ears that needs the work.
    The old saying “attitude is everything” applies here. OK, here is my prescription for an attitude adjustment:
    I propose we start spring training camp all over again today, and the players that show relentless effort and
    coachability play. Shake it up! We may need to reassign team captains also. We need more leaders on the field. The others can ride the pines. The OLine is in most need obviously, so don’t be afraid of really shaking things up against there against CSU. Go gators!

  11. Gator 6, right back at you. You and I are restoring (creating?) internet civility one person at a time.

    I suspected you intended “lower tier team” in a historical context but I didn’t articulate my response quite as well as I would have liked. You, of course, are absolutely right about the historicalco text. We’re usually mathematically eliminated from the SEC race after the first game of the season. You’ve probably also heard the joke “did you hear they’re expanding Commonwealth Stadium? They’re adding more exits.”

    The basketball games are going to be totally nuts this year! They might even qualify as “donnybrooks.” (You don’t get all that many chances to toss a good “donnybrook” into a conversation.)