Murphy, Jones lead the way for Gators’ offense as Florida wins 27th-straight against Kentucky

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy looked like a seasoned, experienced signal caller in his first career start, leading the No. 19/20 Florida Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) to a 24-7 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) on the road at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY, on Saturday evening.

Murphy ended the first half 11-of-11 for 120 yards and a touchdown, adding another score and 20 rushing yards on four carries, and gave the Gators a 21-7 edge at halftime. He threw an interception in the second half but was supported by a strong effort from UF’s dominant defense and sophomore running back Matt Jones, who took a career-high 28 carries for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown.

Florida won its 27th consecutive game against Kentucky dating back to 1986, extending the nation’s longest active winning streak against an annual opponent. The Gators are also 33-1 against the Wildcats since 1980 and have outscored their SEC East rivals 262-43 over the last seven games.

Florida opened up with its longest scoring drive of the season, gaining 93 yards on 13 plays in 7:47 and capping it off with a touchdown when Jones carried the ball into the end zone on 3rd-and-Goal.

Kentucky answered in kind, moving the ball 50 yards in 12 plays before being faced with 4th-and-9 at UF’s 25-yard line. UK lined up for the field goal but faked it with kicker Joe Mansour taking an over-the-head toss from the holder 25 yards to tie the game at 7-7.

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Gameday: No. 19 Florida Gators at Kentucky

Location: Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 67,606]
Weather: 74°F (feels like 74°F), partly cloudy, winds S at 5 mph
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $46 on TiqIQ

TV: ESPNU (Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb, Dawn Davenport)
SiriusXM: 94/200 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: Watch ESPN | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 19/20 FLORIDA GATORS KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Mark Stoops
Record: 2-1 (1-0 SEC) Record: 1-2 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -12 | O/U: 46.5

KEEP UP WITH THE GATORS

Busy during the week? Miss a feature, story or post on OnlyGators.com? No worries. Catch up on what you missed via the links below!

Depth chart | Story: Special teams not so special | Story: QB Tyler Murphy focused on preparation, leadership | Story: Ousted Kentucky coach Phillips making an impact at Florida | Story: CB Hargreaves making an early impact | Story: Can LB Fowler continue to dominate? | Notes: Friday Final

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is looking to extend its 26-game winning streak against Kentucky, which dates back to 1986. It is the longest active streak against an annual opponent but the sixth-longest such streak all time.
» The Gators are 46-17 all-time against the Wildcats with an 18-10 edge in Lexington. UF is also 32-1 against UK since 1980.
» Florida is favored by 13 points but has not defeated Kentucky by fewer than 34 points since 2007 (45-37). UF has outscored UK 238-36 over the last six games (2008-10) and shutout its SEC East rival last year (38-0) for the first time since 1996.
» Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease spent two years with the Wildcats (2001-02) in the same position. UF wide receivers coach Joker Phillilps was a player (1981-84), graduate assistant (1988-89), assistant coach (1990-96, 2003-04), offensive coordinator (2004-09) and head coach (2010-12) at UK for 23 combined seasons spanning four decades. He is also a native of Franklin, KY.
» Florida failed to open the season 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
» Kentucky has not defeated a ranked opponent since 2010.
» The Gators are 14-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (6-9 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards). Florida is also 16-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 12-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 13-3 when scoring first (7-6 when an opponent scores first) and 16-1 when leading at the half (4-8 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF is 16-1 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» Against the Hurricanes on Sept. 7, the Gators had two wide receivers gain more than 98 yards in the same game for the first time since Nov. 3, 2007.
» Florida held Toledo to six points in its season opener, the sixth time the team has held an opponent without a touchdown under Muschamp.
» The Gators rank first nationally in time of possession (117.0 minutes), rushing defense (55.3 yards), first downs defense (34), third down conversion defense (.189) and fourth down conversion defense (.000); second in the country in total defense (212.3 yards); and fourth in passing efficiency defense (82.95).
» The Wildcats rank sixth nationally in third down defense (.231).
» Florida has forced at least one turnover in 14-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (354).
» Florida has registered a nation-leading 102 interceptions since 2008. UF is also first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) and interception return yards (1,788).
» Both coaching staffs will don Coach to Cure MD patches on their clothes in support of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. The program, which is a partnership between Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and the American Football Coaches Association, has raised more than one million dollars in six years of existence.

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 19 Florida Gators at Kentucky

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Track the Florida Gators en route to Kentucky

The No. 19/20 Florida Gators are on their way to Lexington, KY, to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. As a long-time special OnlyGators.com feature, the following is the flight information for the Gators, which are flying over on an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 twin-jet.

You can also track the flight live while it is in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Blue Grass Airport (KLEX)

DURATION: 1 hour and 33 minutes

DEPARTURE: 3:52 p.m. EDT [scheduled 3:30 p.m. EDT]
ARRIVAL: 5:25 p.m. EDT [scheduled 5:11 p.m. EDT]

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Friday Final: Florida prepares for Kentucky

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and a number of players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the Kentucky Wildcats scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY, and air on ESPNU.

Below are some notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the 10 posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Updated depth chart released | Muschamp talks injuries, rushers and more | Special teams not so special (exclusive)
Tuesday: QB Tyler Murphy focused on preparation, leadership
Wednesday: Muschamp updates injures; Steve Spurrier and Mark Stoops join him on SEC teleconference | Ousted Kentucky coach Joker Phillips making an impact at Florida | QB Jeff Driskel undergoes successful surgery | DT Dominique Easley out for the season (torn ACL)
Thursday: CB Vernon Hargreaves III making an early impact | Gators hope BUCK Dante Fowler, Jr. continues to dominate

GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING

The Gators are currently ranked 48th in rushing offense, averaging 199.7 yards per game. It’s not exactly where Florida wants to be at this point in the season, and the coaching staff has altered its approach on how carries will be divided up going forward. Rather than having sophomore running back Matt Jones automatically take the bulk of the carries, UF will go with the hot hand each game.

“We know what Matt is capable of and he’ll be fine. What he can’t do is get down on himself emotionally,” Pease said on Tuesday. “He’s still part of the game pan. You just got to understand you just go back and work harder. Kids think everything is always going to be perfect all the time. No, it isn’t. There’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys. What he did last year, he obviously worked himself where he was pretty consistent where he was at. … Now you’re an every-down guy so your expectation of execution is much higher on a play-to-play basis on consistency, performance. He’s fine. He’s a good player. He’ll be alright.”

In addition to giving more carries to redshirt junior Mack Brown, Florida wants to get freshman Kelvin Taylor more involved. Pease believes consistency is the main issue holding Taylor back from making an impact at this point.

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Florida CB Hargreaves already making an impact

Since the Florida Gators started keeping statistical records in 1996, only one player in school history has registered an interception in the first two games of his career. Unsurprisingly, he is the latest in a trend of exceedingly talented freshmen cornerbacks that have made names for themselves with the Gators.

Vernon Hargreaves III has busted onto the scene at Florida quicker and arguably with more of an immediate impact than players like Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins, both high draft selections and current NFL starters.

That fact has not been overlooked by his coaches and teammates.

“Hargreaves is an outstanding player, man. I see him as a young guy and all I can remember is coming in here as a freshman and watching some of the other guys that I was around. Seeing him is just different. He’s a different dude. He’s a great player,” said redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell.

According to a tweet from 247Sports.com’s Thomas Goldkamp, receivers covered by Hargreaves have been targeted just 13 times through three games despite his being on the field for starters’ minutes in the first two games and actually starting at nickel during last week’s 31-17 victory over Tennessee.

In those 13 pass attempts, Hargreaves has registered two interceptions and three pass breakups while allowing just three receptions for a total of 19 yards.

“He’s just a ball hawk. He’s just a player,” said sophomore Buck LB Dante Fowler, Jr., the Gators’ standout freshman from 2012. “I remember when Vernon was a junior and we were on the 7-on-7 teams and stuff like that, and he was like very, very quiet. Just to see him out there doing good things, that’s kind of funny. But he’s a ball hawk. He’s broken into it now.”

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Ousted UK coach Phillips making impact at UF

Joker Phillips’ career with the Kentucky Wildcats spanned parts of four decades including 23 seasons and hundreds of games as a player, graduate assistant, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach.

On Saturday, for just the second time in his 26-year coaching career, Phillips will step foot into Commonwealth Stadium as a visitor, an unwelcome guest looking to earn a victory with his new team, the Florida Gators.

Due to program regulations, Phillips – a position coach – was not made available to speak with the media, so he could not directly discuss his thoughts and feelings entering Saturday’s contest. But other coaches and players provided were able to provide their opinions on his behalf.

“I know as a player and a coach there, as a coordinator and a head coach, there’s no question I’m sure he’ll be emotional about that. Any time you spend a lot of time at a place, as much time as we spend hours in the office and working hard for a university, there’s no question that’s part of it,” head coach Will Muschamp said.

“Joker is a professional. He’ll handle it the right way. Any time you spend a large amount of your life as a player and as an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach [at one school], certainly you’re invested in that university. …

“You do feel a little different going back to a place like that that you spent so much time. People don’t realize the amount of time and effort we put in to what we do, giving our time to young people and dedication to the administration and all the things involved with a university. And then when you’re not there anymore, for whatever reason, it takes a little part away from you. You always leave something where you’ve been before. I’m sure Joker feels the same way.

“He and I talked a little bit about it Sunday night, the amount of time he spent in Lexington and how much he enjoyed it and the situation there. He really has fond memories of his time at Kentucky.”

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9/25: Muschamp talks DT Easley, Gators injuries

No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team heading into Saturday’s road contest against the Kentucky Wildcats.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp started his appearance by discussing Florida’s injury situation and updating the status of one player who was rumored by multiple media outlets to have suffered season-ending knee injury during practice on Tuesday.

Dominique Easley tweaked his knee a little bit [Tuesday], will probably be out [Wednesday] and we’ll see how it goes,” he said of the senior defensive tackle. “It’s his other knee. It was a non-contact [injury]. He was playing to run on a screen and just tweaked it a little bit. And we think he’ll be fine.”

Easley previously tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee near the end of the 2011 season. The new injury is to his right knee.

“We just need more information right now. We’re going through that process at this time,” he added.

Easley then sent out the following message via his personal Twitter account.

“Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking wi th me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe”

Muschamp also updated the status of five other players. Redshirt junior nose tackle Leon Orr (shoulder), redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) and junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) will all practice Wednesday and should be active against Kentucky. Moore and Roberson did not play versus Tennessee.

Redshirt sophomore running back Vadlez Showers, who injured his ankle a week ago in practice, remains doubtful for Saturday’s game, and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson is out as previously noted with a stress fracture in his foot.

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UF QB Murphy focused on preparation, leadership

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy may have looked cool, calm and collected when he took over for injured junior starter Jeff Driskel on Saturday, but he was nervous deep down inside.

Such is the case when you haven’t played a meaningful down at quarterback in four years and you are not expecting to see the field on a given afternoon. Murphy nevertheless expects that queasy feeling to return on Saturday when he starts the first game of his college career for the No. 19/20 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) against the Kentucky Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 SEC).

“I’ll have butterflies, I’m sure,” he admitted on Monday. “I’ll be anxious to get out there and maybe complete my first pass – or once I get hit – I think I’ll be fine. I don’t think it’ll be bad as it was last week,” he said.

Murphy started thinking about the Kentucky game hours after he led Florida to a 31-17 victory over Tennessee but not because he was salivating at the chance to start but rather so he could fix his mistakes and improve as a player.

“After the game I was kind of anxious to watch the film, see how I did. I was just kind of just thinking about how I would have to adapt to being a starter and stuff like that, taking on a new role. Just ways I could just really excel and be a leader,” Murphy said. “I’m the next guy in line, so I’m just thinking of ways I could help lead this team.”

He spent the whole night thinking about it while returning congratulatory phone calls and text messages of from friends, family and teammates.

“I’m just kind of ready to move on and start focusing on Kentucky,” he said, “getting back to doing what I love to do, which is playing football.”

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease got first crack at the film that Murphy had to wait until Sunday to view. He spoke Tuesday about what he liked about Murphy’s performance on Saturday.

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