Rapid Reacton: It's over! Kentucky ends 31-game losing streak to Florida
Saturday night, the University of Kentucky — no, wait —
Yeah, the Kentucky Wildcats — hang on , that can’t be right —
No, our sources confirm that Kentucky ended the nation’s longest running single-opponent losing streak by not only beating the Florida Gators, but by doing everything but baptizing Dan Mullen in holy water and driving a stake through Steve Spurrier’s heart. The Gator boss who owned Kentucky and regularly beat the Wildcats like a rented mule was in the Swamp Saturday to celebrate Florida’s 1993 SEC championship squad. Florida may have planned a celebration, but it was Kentucky who ended up celebrating after a 27-16 win in The Swamp.
Here’s the thing. In an era of gadgets and gizmos when the SEC is getting shinier and fancier, Kentucky may have gone back in the time machine and decided to put its fortune on old-timey football.
Led by Benny Snell and his thoroughbred running style and JUCO quarterback Terry Wilson, whose heart-stopping style promises to play the Wildcats both into and out of some games this season, Kentucky decided to put its fortune on the backs of the old-time ground game.
Sure, there were exceptions. Wilson hit a gorgeous 54 yard bomb to Lynn Bowden late in the third quarter to extend Kentucky’s lead to 21-10. He opened the night’s scoring with a 29 yard strike to former walk-on David Bouvier. But most of the time, Kentucky just met the Florida front seven helmet to helmet and drove them back for yard after precious yard.
While running back Benny Snell, who should be careful lest he forfeit his title as the SEC’s most underrated player, bulldozed for 175 yards on 27 carries and Wilson ducked, dodged, and yes, once fumbled on his way to 105 yards on ten carries, Florida’s offense couldn’t get untracked. QB Feleipe Franks looked much more like the shaky young passer who stumbled through 2017 than the stud who shredded Charleston Southern last week. It took until the fourth quarter for Florida to crack a ten-yard run.
The unsung heroes of the night were the Kentucky defense. Linebacker Kash Daniel met Florida ballcarriers early and often. Safety Darius West made a critical fourth-quarter interception to keep the game clocking ticking.
Maybe, just maybe, in year six of the Mark Stoops Era, the former defensive coordinator has established the bend-but-don’t-break unit needed to keep Kentucky competitive in the SEC. Kentucky brought pressure from a variety of angles and areas of the field, and generally kept Franks looking as if he were the player making his first SEC start, instead of Wilson, who actually was doing so.
The first win over Florida since 1986 opens up other possibilities for Stoops. Perhaps Kentucky’s first top 25 ranking since 2007? The team’s first eight-win regular season since 1984? The Wildcats’ first winning conference season since 1977? We’ll pump the breaks on any talk of winning the SEC for now, but the SEC’s second longest tenured head coach had a fine Saturday night in Gainesville. It was a long time coming.