No. 6 Florida aims to build another streak vs. Kentucky
The No. 6-ranked Florida Gators will look to create another winning streak against Southeastern Conference foe Kentucky on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.
The two SEC East opponents have met 70 times, with the Gators (6-1, 6-1 SEC) holding a 52-18 advantage over the Wildcats (3-5, 3-5).
But it was the teams’ meeting two years ago – at Florida, where games usually have been one-sided – that stunned the college football world, as the Wildcats snapped one of the sport’s longest streaks.
Kentucky used a 20-point, second-half rally to beat the Gators 27-16 on Sept. 8 that year, winning for the first time since 1986.
In the driver’s seat in the SEC East after defeating rival Georgia 44-28 on Nov. 7, Florida has to defeat just two of its last three opponents – Kentucky, at Tennessee (2-5) on Dec. 5, and at home against LSU (3-3) on Dec. 12 – to clinch the division and advance to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19.
The Gators appeared to go through the motions for a half at winless Vanderbilt on Saturday before pulling away for a 38-17 victory. They received 383 passing yards and three touchdown passes from standout quarterback Kyle Trask, who leads the nation in TD passes with 28.
Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday that Trask would get back his top target this weekend – star tight end Kyle Pitts (24 catches, 414 yards, eight TDs).
“He’s such a playmaker, he’s such a leader,” said Mullen, whose squad beat Kentucky 29-21 last year. “The matchup problem he causes defenses is great to have him back with us.”
The Wildcats suffered through a soul-searching loss Saturday in Tuscaloosa, falling 63-3 to top-ranked Alabama – the third-worst defeat in school history since 1950.
Three of the top four shellackings suffered by the Wildcats have come in the Sunshine State against the Gators.
With Steve Spurrier at the helm, Florida drubbed the Wildcats in 1994 and 1996 – 73-7 and 65-0, respectively – and Urban Meyer’s Florida team walloped them 63-5 in 2008.
But despite most recently mounting a winning streak over Florida in 1976 and 1977, the Wildcats lately have fought fiercely in the series.
In the past six meetings, all but one game was close – Florida’s 45-7 rout in 2016 – and four were decided by eight points or less.
In Saturday’s bad loss to the Crimson Tide, eighth-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was without many key contributors, including top rusher Chris Rodriguez, who has amassed 562 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.
Kentucky started strong with 121 yards in the first quarter, but the offense generated just 27 yards in the second half and tried desperately with quarterbacks Terry Wilson, Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen.
While Stoops said there were good points to take from the big loss, junior defensive end Joshua Paschal worried about the long-term effect on younger teammates.
“This is not acceptable for us. We know that as players, as a whole football team, as a whole organization,” Paschal said.
“As leaders, we are going to put it on the young guys, so the young guys know that this isn’t acceptable, this is not who we are, this won’t happen again.”
–Field Level Media