Kentucky stunned Florida Saturday and snapped 31 years of futility against the Gators on a steamy night in The Swamp. We’ll get to how Florida lost this game and what it means for this season and the future in a moment.

But we’d be remiss if we first didn’t show some love to Kentucky’s two heroes on the night, running back Benny Snell and quarterback Terry Wilson, who keyed the Wildcats first victory over the Gators in 32 years

The performance of these two Wildcats in a word? Awesome.

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Wilson, who became a household name because  his appearance on the Netflix series “Last Chance U,” was masterful, extending plays with his legs and haranguing the Gators defense as a runner throughout the night.

His dime of a 54-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Bowden Jr. — on third-and-16, no less — gave Kentucky the lead in the third quarter and will long be part of Kentucky lore.

As for Snell, well, what else can you say?

He’s the most underappreciated running back in the college football, and possibly the best running back in the SEC. He absolutely bossed the Gators Saturday night, averaging 6.5 a carry and breaking a staggering 11 tackles.

It was an All-American caliber performance and one that won’t soon be forgotten in the Bluegrass state.

As for Florida, well, at least basketball season starts Nov. 6.

Just kidding.

Florida lost this game for one simple reason, and fixing their flaws in this area is the challenge that will define the remainder of Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville.

Football is about blocking and tackling. The Gators didn’t block well and they didn’t tackle well. As a result, they lost to Kentucky for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president.

The problems started on offense. Florida had only 128 yards on the ground, with Kentucky averaging 7.4 yards a rush to Florida’s 4.4.

We identified the warning signs up front in our Florida film study this week, and the Gators simply couldn’t get it cleaned up in one week’s time.

Last week, Florida’s offensive line struggled to consistently get a push in the run game against Charleston Southern’s undersized FCS defensive line.

Those struggles spilled into SEC play Saturday night, as the Gators established little leverage in the running game and compounding issues, surrendered multiple sacks.

Fred Johnson’s errors in slide protections alone wiped out momentum in two first-quarter drives, forcing Florida to settle for a field goal on one possession in the red zone.

In fairness, Kentucky has a veteran defensive line and Matt House brought a host of exotic pressures. But Florida returned 112 career starts (second-most in the SEC) up front and even with a different starting center this season, more was expected from this unit than they have shown the first two weeks.

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, for all his obvious improvement, is still a work in progress and the Gators can’t afford to be one-dimensional — and squander a host of talent at running back in the process- — if they hope to compete in the SEC East.

In the second half, with little running game to speak of, Kentucky was able to key on getting to the quarterback and, in truth, the Gators met them with little resistance. With little time to throw, Franks was forced to make quick decisions and unable to wait for longer routes to develop downfield.

That’s not a good combination in the SEC, and it failed Saturday night.

Florida stalled out for nearly two quarters in the middle of the football game, and by the time they got the offense moving again, it was too late.

Florida was also whipped up front defensively.

Last year, led by Taven Bryan inside and Cece Jefferson on the edge, Florida did enough to slow Kentucky up front, limiting Snell to 59 yards on the ground. As a team, Kentucky managed only 120 yards rushing last season on 3.8 a carry.

In fact, it was Bryan’s bull-rushing ability and the ability of Jefferson on the edge that helped Florida stay in a handful of football games early last season, notably against Kentucky, LSU and Texas A & M.

It was a different story Saturday night.

With Bryan in the National Football League and Jefferson still suspended, Florida was thoroughly whipped at the point of attack for much of the evening.

It’s unfortunate Jefferson has started what should be a promising senior year under suspension, but the Gators missed him and All-SEC middle linebacker David Reese, who missed another game due to injury.

Kentucky was able to stifle any push from Florida’s three-technique tackles Khairi Clark, Elijah Conliffe and TJ Slaton, which allowed Kentucky’s running backs to  find creases in the run game and help on Florida’s talented defensive ends in pass protection. That extra help, coupled with Wilson’s natural ability as a runner and elusiveness in the pocket, limited the effectiveness of Florida’s talented front seven.

With little push from the Florida defensive tackles, Snell piled up 175 yards on 27 carries, breaking off multiple chunk plays, and Terry Wilson, whose ability to extend plays with his legs confounded the Gators defense all night, added 105 of his own.

It’s hard to win football games when you surrender 303 yards rushing, and Florida heads into Week 3 allowing nearly 270 yards a game on the ground. That’s not a formula for victory.

Some of that is about another important part of football: tackling. At present, Florida can’t tackle.

The Gators entered the game ranked 13th in the SEC in tackling rate after one week; they will likely enter Week 3 dead last, as missed tackles was the primary theme of the evening.

Whether the Gators were waving at Wilson in the pocket, trying in vain to arm tackle the human bulldozer that is Benny Snell, or simply failing to square up Kentucky wide receivers, Florida put on a clinic on how not to tackle Saturday night.

With physical, power football teams dotting Florida’s schedule over the next month, it will be another long season in Gainesville unless defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can get the tackling problem fixed.

Were there positives? Yes and no.

Florida didn’t make enough big plays on defense last year, which was a big reason the unit fell outside the Top 50 in S&P+ defensive efficiency and outside the top 50 in total defense for the first time since 2007. They didn’t even recover a fumble last year until mid-November, and by that time, SEC play was over.

Saturday night, Florida did force two turnovers to stop Kentucky drives, one of which came on a beautiful  diving interception by sophomore cornerback C.J. Henderson, who showed throughout the evening why he was a preseason All-SEC selection.

The big plays dried up in the second half, however, and that’s a big reason Kentucky captured its first win over Florida since 1986.

For three quarters at least, Feleipe Franks was also a positive. He continued to demonstrate a command of the offense and the aptitude to make secondary reads and take what the defense gave him. He  repeatedly picked up blitzes from Matt House’s Kentucky defense pre-snap, a skill that saved Florida on its first scoring drive and a skill he simply didn’t have a year ago.

But Franks faltered in crunch time. He badly underthrew Tyrie Cleveland on a go route with Florida trailing 21-10 in the third quarter, and air-mailed a simple out route to Joshua Hammond in the fourth quarter, which was intercepted by Darrius West.

Later, with the Gators backed up and beginning a drive on their own 1-yard line after a brilliant Kentucky punt, Franks almost derailed an impressive Gator drive with another near interception on a simple out read and two plays later, fumbled a play-action exchange with running back Lamical Perine.

Florida scored anyway, only to see Franks miss a wide open Malik Davis for an easy two-point conversion in the right flat that would have cut Kentucky’s lead to 21-18.

These are growing moments for a quarterback who is only a sophomore, but they were momentum-snatchers that hurt Florida’s chances to win Saturday night.

The frustrating fourth quarter aside, it’s clear  through two games that Franks is the most improved player on Florida’s football team, the clear starter and a team leader. That’s a testament to his hard work and the coaching influence of first-year coach Dan Mullen.

But what now? How does Florida deal with the humiliation of losing to a Kentucky program the Gators just don’t lose to? And with road trips to Knoxville (Sept. 22) and Starkville (Sept. 29) still on the September schedule, how does Florida avoid a disastrous 2-3 opening month under Mullen? And that’s presuming Saturday’s game with Colorado State ends in a win, which is no lock.

Can they avoid it? To begin with, they’ll struggle to beat anyone if they don’t block better and tackle better. But sometimes it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Ask Kentucky, who would have been forgiven if they wondered whether they’d ever beat Florida again after last year’s fourth-quarter collapse at Kroger Field. Instead, they showed character, rallied to make a bowl game and, on Saturday night, they were dancing in The Swamp.

Adversity is part of football and life. Character is about how you respond. Let’s see how the Gators respond.