There was that moment, that flash in your brain when you thought it could happen again.
Sure, Kentucky had been the dominant team on both lines of scrimmage. But we’d seen it happen so many times, why not one more to make it an even 32 in a row?
Instead, it ended in a bizarre way, this time good bizarre for the Wildcats. The fumble return for a touchdown made the final score of a monumental win for coach Mark Stoops 27-16, but you know Florida was much closer than that.
And yet, maybe the Gators weren’t that close after all.
“What if we hit a Hail Mary on the last play?” said Florida coach Dan Mullen. “We’d still have the same issues and problems.”
Look at it this way — at least next year’s team won’t have the pressure of The Streak.
Not buying it, huh?
Nor should you.
As Kentucky’s small pocket of fans and pep band celebrated with a cheer usually reserved for basketball games in Gainesville (“C-A-T-S!” Cats, Cats Cats!”), Florida’s players trudged off the field with a feeling none of them nor maybe even their parents have ever felt.
Despair that should be bordering in desperation. Because if this team doesn’t get better in a hurry, get more physical, this is going to be a long season.
“You don’t know until you play games how physical are we on the offensive and defensive lines,” Mullen said.
As of last Saturday night, the answer is, “Not very.”
There were a lot of reasons for the Gator faithful to boo on a humid night.
Yeah, the kick was probably good.
And it did seem that the referee signalled it was not with the gusto usually reserved for a defensive back after a pass break-up.
But really, didn’t Kentucky deserve one of those?
Florida didn’t lose to Kentucky for the first time in three decades because of the field goal that was ruled no good.
It didn’t lose because Kentucky was due.
The Gators lost because they have a lot farther to go than any of us imagined.
Bigger. Stronger. Faster. Right?
But they weren’t bigger or stronger or faster than the team they were playing.
We all knew that Florida was a long way from being back among the elite of college football. We just didn’t realize how far away it is.
Saturday night we found out what it feels like to have the air sucked out of a stadium at the end of a Florida-Kentucky football game.
It’s not fun to be gasping for breath, is it?
“It’s about the players getting each other going and not allow it to be part of our program anymore,” said quarterback Feleipe Franks.
He was responding to Mullen’s comments after the game about his team not practicing with the right mindset, not hustling during practice.
Apparently, the feel good story leading up to this game was a bit of a mirage. Shoot, running back Adarius Lemons put it out on Instagram right after the game that he is transferring from UF.
And you thought it was embarrassing to lose to Kentucky.
Florida got beat by a quarterback playing his second college football game and his first ever in the SEC. He rarely flinched and when he did he usually was getting out of a Florida tackle.
Terry Wilson was the best quarterback on the field Saturday night. And Benny Snell Jr. was the best player. Which leads us all to the sobering conclusion — that Kentucky was the best team on the field in this game.
Maybe they were last year.
We know this — Florida lost both lines of scrimmage and that’s not a good sign because the Gators will see better ones.
This game was an indictment of an offensive line that had to be better because everyone was back, right?
It was an illustration that there is still no pass rush living in Gainesville (speaking of which, get yourself together Cece Jefferson).
And there was this — a time long ago in a place right across the street, Steve Spurrier invited the media to come out to practice one afternoon.
“We’re going to have tacklin’ practice,” said the Head Ball Coach.
That was after a win over Kentucky.
Saturday night after a loss to Kentucky, we should let the New Ball Coach know we’re available.
Yes, I knew it was inevitable, that the streak couldn’t go on forever. Even when Kentucky AGAIN forgot to cover a receiver twice in the game (once, on the two-point conversion try, Franks didn’t see Malik Davis) and made some silly mistakes on penalties, Florida — for once — couldn’t take advantage.
The Gators just weren’t good enough.
This game wasn’t about the Streak as much as it was about the Swamp. After a season where Florida went an abysmal 3-3 at home, the last thing the Gators wanted to do was get into an unfamiliar hole by losing at home.
Forget 32-0. This was about 2-0.
More importantly, 1-0 in the SEC.
Now, these are seldom-navigated waters for the mighty Gators. The last time they were 0-1 in conference play was 2004, Ron Zook’s last season. You can thank the Vols and the Wildcats for 13 years of 1-0.
The thing about Saturday night’s game is that it wasn’t going to give Florida a leg up in conference play no matter how much anyone believed it.
Think about it. Since the SEC East was created in 1992, the Gators had beaten Kentucky 26 straight times and only won the East 11 times. So beating Kentucky wasn’t THAT big a deal.
But it sure beats where you are when you lose to the Wildcats.
Anyone paying attention knows that Georgia established early in the day that any path to Atlanta has to go through Athens again this year.
Now, we can’t help but wonder if it will even stop by Gainesville for a visit.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.