Wildcats have Gators' full attention

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Kentucky's Jordan Wright pressures Florida quarterback Kyle Trask in the second half of last year's game.

Even though the Florida Gators said all the right things last week, about staying focused and striving to get better every day in order to grow into a great team, winless Vanderbilt apparently did not get their full attention.

 Practices were inconsistent throughout the week. Then the performance on Saturday was the same, with the Gators having a bigger struggle than anticipated in a less than an impressive 38-17 win.

 Now, the Gators are back in the friendly confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, taking on a 3-5 Kentucky team that is coming off a 60-point loss to Alabama last week.

 But you know what? The Wildcats have their full attention. Because the last time they were in The Swamp, they were celebrating in The Swamp after ending UF’s 31-game winning streak in the series.

 And then there was last season, when the Gators were about to go down again before Kyle Trask came off the bench to rescue them in the fourth quarter in a come-from-behind 29-21 win in Lexington.

 The Gators know this is a team capable of beating them. So, yeah, the Wildcats have their full attention.

 “They always come in with a grudge,” tight end Kemore Gamble said of the 'Cats. “I guess they have Florida marked on their schedule that they have to beat us. They just want to come out here and win.

 “It’s very important (that we match their intensity). We’re trying to accomplish some goals, and to do that we have to come out hard and come out victorious.”

 The goal last week in Nashville was to get better. That didn’t happen. They stayed about the same. 

 Even though the offense put up some big numbers in the passing game, it lacked consistency at times. Defensively, the Gators gave up more than 300 yards passing and some big chunk plays that kept Vanderbilt in the game.

 “I don’t think we had our best week of practice,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “I don’t think we played our best game. However, you have a 21-point victory, so it’s hard to sit there and say everything’s gone wrong.

 “All the things you need to do as a team to win, we were able to do. Now as a whole, is that our overall best performance? No. But you can still look at all the positive things that we did as a team you need to do throughout the course of a long season.”

 The Gators did not achieve their goal to get better last week. They’ll try again when they tee it up Saturday.

 Kentucky will challenge the Gators, for sure. Despite that 63-3 loss to the Tide last week, the Wildcats are a physical team that runs the ball well and leads the SEC in total defense.

 And like the last two years have shown, the Wildcats not only can play with the Gators, they’re also capable of beating them.

 UK has UF’s full attention.

 “Absolutely,” Mullen said. “They’re a really good football team. I think they had a tough game last week, but that was out of the norm of how that game played out for them. In the second quarter, they were driving in for a field goal to make it 7-6. Then some weird things started happening for them, and the game got away from them.

"But you look at them, very good defensive team, stout up front. One of the best pass defenses in the conference. Then they complement playing ball control football. Their physicality and how they’re able to run to the ball.

 “For us, always, you know you’re always going to get their best when they come play the Gators. We’ve got to continue to take strides moving forward, have a great week of practice and come out and perform at a high level again on Saturday.” 

Saturday

Who: Kentucky (3-5) vs. No. 5 Florida (6-1)

When: Noon

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

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850