It may have taken a few possessions for the No. 14 Florida Gators to get rolling, but the end result was yet another dominating victory over the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC) picked off Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC) three times in the first half on their way to a 38-0 thrashing that extended the Gators’ winning streak over the Wildcats to 26 games dating back to 1987.
Florida enters the bye week with a 4-0 record for the fourth-straight season, earning their fourth victory by shutting down Kentucky offensively (303-219 in total offense) and being extremely efficient on third down (12-of-17). The Gators out-passed the Wildcats 203-60 on the afternoon, dominated time of possession 37:41-22:19 and shut out a Southeastern Conference opponent for the first time since Sept. 29, 2001.
Failing to move the ball on their first two offensive drives, Florida found the red zone on their third possession. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel took a bootleg 38 yards down to Kentucky’s 20 on the first play with the ball moved to the 10 after Driskel was taken down by his facemask. Senior running back Mike Gillislee ran to the three with a seven-yard carry, but UF concluded the drive with an incomplete pass, false start and bad snap, settling for a 27-yard field goal by redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis.
A missed 54-yard field goal by UK gave the ball back to the Gators, which put together a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive to take a 10-0 lead with 12:04 left in the first half. Driskel hit redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. for a 24-yard reception on third down to extend the drive, and Gillislee carried six times for 31 yards on the possession (including his one-yard touchdown run).
Read the rest of the Florida-Kentucky game story…after the break!
Florida’s defense held strong again with sophomore cornerback De’Ante Saunders registering his first interception of the season, grabbing a third-down pass from Kentucky QB Morgan Newton inches off the ground and returning it 29 yards to UK’s 23. UF, however, failed to take advantage of the miscue by committing two penalties before Driskel threw his first pick of the season while forcing the ball into double coverage.
On the ensuing possession, the Gators got the touchdown they were hoping to score after the previous turnover. Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins intercepted Newton on 3rd-and-5 and brought the ball back untouched into the end zone from 26 yards out to give his team a 17-0 lead.
The Wildcats got another scoring opportunity minutes later after Newton extended their drive with a 24-yard scamper down the right sideline. However, Kentucky kicker Craig McIntosh missed his second field goal of the game, this one from 46 yards out, to keep Florida’s shutout intact.
The Gators threatened again on their next possession as Driskel threw up a prayer to redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines that he caught for a career-long 52-yard reception on 3rd-and-15. Florida failed to come away with points on the drive, however, as Sturgis had his 39-yard field goal attempt deflected at the line of scrimmage.
UF had their sights set on scoring again before the half and did just that with 44 seconds left on the clock as Driskel, redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar were the only players to touch the ball. The seven-play, 76-yard touchdown drive lasted 1:18, included a personal foul penalty on UK and ended with Dunbar catching a strike from Driskel in the end zone.
The Gators forced their third interception of the game just seconds later when redshirt sophomore linebacker Michael Taylor picked off Newton, but UF was unable to score again before the clock ran out.
Florida forced Kentucky to punt to open the third quarter and ran 9:03 off the clock on a productive 15-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that gave the home team a 31-0 lead. Driskel completed six passes for 56 yards on the possession but scored the touchdown on his own, gaining a first down with a six-yard rush before punching it in with a quarterback sneak up the middle.
Sopomore QB Jacoby Brissett replaced Driskel in the fourth quarter and immediately led the Gators into the end zone. Florida ran the ball nine-straight plays on the drive with Brissett crossing the goal line one a one-yard keeper for the score.
Driskel led the way for UF by going 18/27 for 203 yards with a touchdown and interception while also carrying the ball eight times for 35 yards and another score. Gillislee took 13 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, freshman RB Matt Jones rushed 10 times for 45 yards, and redshirt sophomore RB Mark Brown gained 31 yards on four touches. Hammond, Hines, Reed and Dunbar registered three catches each and combined for 170 yards receiving on the afternoon.
Florida will now have two weeks to prepare for their next game, receiving a bye next weekend before hosting No. 2 LSU on Oct. 6. The game time and broadcast information for that contest will be announced by the SEC on Monday.
Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press