This … is The Swamp? Kentucky embarrasses Florida ending Gators’ 31-game winning streak

By Adam Silverstein
September 8, 2018
This … is The Swamp? Kentucky embarrasses Florida ending Gators’ 31-game winning streak
Football

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

Four-win seasons and fired coaches have turned a once-successful Florida Gators football program on its head over the last few years, but one of the few trophies Florida was able to hold onto over this disastrous period was its massive winning streak over the SEC East rival Kentucky Wildcats. On Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, that shred of the Gators’ greatness fell by the wayside, too, as the luster of The Swamp was officially lost.

For the first time since 1986, Kentucky defeated Florida on the football field, ending a 31-game winning streak held by the Gators that was the longest active continuous streak in major college football.

UF’s trend of taking down UK on the gridiron year after year was bound to end sometime. After all, three of the prior four meetings between the programs were decided by six points or fewer. It’s just that it likely should have ended in one of those aforementioned games, not on Saturday in The Swamp in a 27-16 victory that was more of a blowout than the final margin indicated.

Head football coach Dan Mullen appeared to have rejuvenated Florida football since his arrival, but that sweet emotion culminated in a 53-6 bludgeoning of FCS Charleston Southern in the Gators’ season opener. It was not expected that Florida would run through Kentucky in similar fashion, but the hosts were nearly 14-point favorites when the game kicked off, and UF was certainly expected to continue its winning streak over a UK team that barely went bowling a year ago.

Consider that the Gators had only lost six prior games to SEC East opponents in The Swamp since 1990. Kentucky was 4-28 in its 32 previous trips to Gainesville, Florida, and had not won there since 1979 against a team that went winless that season. UF had also won 13 consecutive SEC openers before Saturday night’s disaster.

While Florida did lead for a period of time, it was never truly in the game. Kentucky dominated nearly every facet of the contest and would have posted an even more dominant score had it not committed two untimely drive-killing turnovers in the first half.

The Wildcats outgained the Gators by nearly 100 yards overall (453-360) and dominated the hosts on the ground (303-128). UK began the game by converting 8-of-9 third downs — many of them for more than 10 yards — and at one point had doubled up UF offensively and rushed for five times as many yards. The number of tackles the Gators missed may have set a program record. It would be difficult to know for sure.

Worst of all? Kentucky made plenty of mistakes — as it has in the past — that other Florida teams would have capitalized on. You would think the Wildcats would need a perfect game to beat the Gators. This was anything but. In addition to the two drive-killing turnovers, Kentucky was sloppy throughout, committing 12 penalties for 114 yards and failing to cover Florida receivers on a couple plays.

The problems for the Gators were multiple. The offensive line could not keep defenders off redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks. Though Franks made some good throws on occasion, he threw a terrible interception midway through the second half and did not even see a wide-open receiver for a late two-point conversion that would have given his team a bit more life.

Florida’s defense was basically a sieve for the first three quarters, allowing Kentucky to get whatever it wanted on the ground. It did not help that the Gators were missing their top defensive lineman in suspended senior Cece Jefferson, top linebacker in injured junior David Reese and top cornerback in sophomore Marco Wilson, who appeared to seriously injure his knee early in the first quarter.

The Gators also saw officials under the goal posts call a clearly made field goal by freshman kicker Evan McPherson a miss. That would have put Florida eight points away from tying the game, making the aforementioned failed two-point conversion an even more important play.

Kentucky scored touchdowns on drives of 91 yards, 90 yards and 78 yards. Florida simply could not stop the onslaught. The defense looked as if it had never seen run-pass options or a mobile quarterback before. The offense was unable to sustain drives long enough to give the other side some rest, though it did piece together a 15-play, 99-yard touchdown-scoring dive to provide itself with an outside chance late in the contest.

Where the Gators go from here is anyone’s guess. Florida does have a potential get-right game against Colorado State next week. After that, the Gators play three of four SEC games on the road (Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt) with LSU coming to town in between.

If Florida can’t beat Kentucky in The Swamp at night, what does that say for the remainder of the season? If the Gators can’t win a game like that against an opponent making that many mistakes at home, what are they going to do on the road?

It had been obvious from the day he took over that Mullen had quite a rebuilding job in Gainesville. Saturday night, we learned that not only are the Gators far from “back,” they have a long way to go toward even being competitive. And all the while, the luster of The Swamp has been lost.

6 Comments

  1. Michael L. Jones says:

    1. Kentucky was tougher.

    2. I was shocked to see that many missed tackles by our defense.

    3. I was shocked to see that we had 12 players on the field for a crucial defensive stand to get the ball back at the end of the game. And we were that disorganized AFTER a timeout. Went from 2 and 8 to 2 and 3 with the penalty . . enabling UK to convert . . .and so went our chance to get the ball back in time to win the game.

    4. I hate to be a typical Gator and jump on the QB, but Franks is not our guy. Too much lacking between the ears. He is supposed to have a big arm yet consistently missed guys down the field, allowing UK to play a ridiculous man-to-man press off the line of scrimmage without safety help over the top and never made them pay for it. He also, most of the time, runs like a 6’6″ 240 lb. clumsy ballerina trying to avoid contact. Franks not seeing the wide open receiver on the two point conversion Adam alluded to that men, women and little children sitting around me were pointing and screaming “he’s open!” was mind-boggling.

    5. Kadarius Toney is CLEARLY our best offensive player with the ball in his hands and just a little space, but UK didn’t have to worry about him too much because we did a great job of not getting him the ball.

    6. Grantham called a terrible game (or the UK offensive coordinator called a great one). This just end: they have a running QB and average receivers at best. How did we not bring more pressure on 3rd and 17 so that he did not have time to run around and find an open receiver 50+ yards downfield for a touchdown? What happened to our great pass rushers? Or the concept of a spy? The dude torched us with his legs and UK gained over 300 yards on the grounds.

    Other than those few things I thought we looked great. Ha . . ha . . . ha . . .

  2. Eric says:

    Kentucky had a more physical team. Gators gave up on the run game early. Not a big fan of Franks but he is improving.

    Hope Chauncey learns to keep his mouth shut…

  3. Shafter says:

    The Swamp has not lost its luster. The place was hopping all night, even though the gators struggled. Will this be a difficult year, probably, but Dan Mullen has been on the job, what 10 months? He has players on their 3rd or 4th year, while having their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th d/o-coordinators, and at least their second head coach if not third. All of this with a bunch of players we know had bad habits from past regimes. Dan Mullen is trying to fix the culture, attitude, and all the rest at the same time. Expecting him to fix a team that has players from at least one 4-7 season, with bad offenses since he left 10 years ago, and most likely poor coaching in several areas, lacking talent in a lot of areas and a S&C program we all acknowledge was not up to par; and he’s supposed to fix all that in 10 months. That’s a difficult ask for anyone, but to sit there and say the swamp has lost its luster because of this game or any season is a falsehood. Has the program struggled absolutely, and they probably will continue until the talent has been raised and the players have at least two years of a good S&C program, and the other issues are addressed. But the Swamp will always be the Swamp, and the sky isn’t falling our heads. It’s a game that has to be played to determine a winner, Kentucky won plain and simple. It was destined to happen some time, and one game doesn’t define a season, but we will see if it defines the players/coaches for the season this coming weekend

  4. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    We are an Average Team and absolutely bad on OLINE and DLINE….. Martez IVEY is Horrible and Slow gets beat constantly by Fast, Quick DE’s…. These OLINE are Slow, and weak what’s the point of being more than 300 lbs and can’t push anyone off the line….. We have great RB’s but what’s the point if we can’t make holes….

    PS Chauncey should keep his mouth shut. Plus no one moving forward should guarantee anything. It will be a long suffering year.

  5. G2 says:

    Downgrading my prediction of 8 wins to 5 after that performance. Not sure who we can beat except the gimees.

    Never thought Franks was our guy although he looked much improved last week. With the pressure he got this week its back to the sos.

    Our lines just succck, no push on offense, no penetration on defense. Gonna be another long season I’m afraid

  6. Jimmie Brown says:

    If your offense cannot sustain a long drive our defense will tire out we need a new quarterback end of story

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