(image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Week one has come and gone and now it is time for the big games. Starting the year off with a win always is a good sign as you look forward to the rest of the year. Kentucky was able to fend off Central Michigan in the season opener and is now looking ahead to none other than the Florida Gators.
The big elephant in the room heading into this huge SEC opener for the Cats is the streak. 31-straight years of losing to one team is not easy to take, especially when there has been many games that have come right down to the wire. While the streak is a big burden on all of BBN’s back, it is something we all have just had to deal with. The streak has been even more frustrating in the Mark Stoops era because we have had the talent and ability to beat them on multiple occasions. As we all get ready to hopefully put the decades of misery in the rear view mirror, let’s take a look at how our current head coach has fared against Florida so far.
2013 (Florida wins 24-7)
(image courtesy of Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)
The first game vs Florida under Stoops was competitive for one quarter. This was actually a positive as Kentucky got throttled the year prior when they lost 38-0 at the Swamp. The 20th ranked Gators got the night going with a two-yard touchdown run from Matt Jones to put them up 7-0. Kentucky’s special teams would respond with a 25-yard touchdown run from Joe Mansour on a fake field goal to tie the game 7-7. Florida would take control after the surprise touchdown and go on to win 24-7. Kentucky’s offense struggled as they only recorded 173 of total offense for the entire night. Thankfully, this was not a sign of what was to come in the future in terms of competitiveness.
2014 (Florida “wins” 30-36 in 3OT)
(image courtesy of ESPN/SEC Network)
This game still sits in my mind to this day. What if the refs had eyes? What if the call was made? What if Kentucky won? These are all questions I still ask myself when I am forced to think back to this night. Patrick Towles and Garrett “Juice” Johnson had two breakout games and the air raid offense Neal Brown always wanted was unfolding before our eyes. The time seemed right and the feeling across BBN was that this could finally be the night the streak came to a long overdue conclusion. All of us know what happened after that, so I refuse to talk about it. The game was ours. The refs stole a great moment from us. Moving on.
2015 (Florida wins 14-9)
(image courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Going into the Florida game in 2014, nobody expected Kentucky to give the Gators a game. In 2015, the fans and media seemed to be confident that 2015 would be the year the streak ended. Mark Stoops was coming off of his first SEC road victory as head coach with a 26-22 win at South Carolina. The Cats had the confidence, talent, and crowd to take down the Gators at home. Florida took all the momentum heading into halftime with a 14-3 lead over Kentucky. The third quarter was a defensive battle as neither team could muster up a point. Kentucky found some momentum early on in the fourth quarter with a 22-yard field goal to make it a one possession game. Kentucky’s defense held strong and got the offense the ball back. Another field goal for the Cats made it 14-9 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. The defenses would go back and forth again until Kentucky had one final possession to win the game. The drive stalled as Florida sealed the game with an interception. Kentucky had some chances to win with the last drive and a dropped touchdown pass by Dorian Baker earlier in the game. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t show up on a night the defense played so well. Another loss for the Cats.
2016 (Florida wins 45-7)
(image courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
There’s no explaining this game. The Cats got demolished. On the bright side, the rest of the season went great for Mark Stoops and the Cats as they would go 7-3 after this game.
2017 (Florida wins 28-27)
(image courtesy of ESPN/SEC Network)
This game was a lot like 2015 when it came to the buildup. Everyone thought Kentucky was going to win. For 99% of the game, it seemed like everyone was right for feeling Kentucky would win. Then, it all came crumbling down. Kentucky somehow left a wide receiver uncovered inside the 10-yard line and let Florida get an easy touchdown late. All hope wasn’t lost as we knew Stephen Johnson had the ability to lead the Cats on a game winning drive. It seemed Stephen had done just that after getting the ball into range for Austin MacGinnis to make a game-winning kick. Nick Haynes would then be called for holding which would take MacGinnis out of comfortable range. The coaching staff had a decision to make, hail mary or long field goal? They decided to go with the latter. The kick went up and fell short. Had the ball been 10 yards closer, it probably would’ve gone in. Once again, Kentucky had been defeated by Florida.
This was very hard to make as I really didn’t want to think about any of these games. Until the streak is broken, it will be the main topic of discussion leading into Kentucky/Florida football games. Mark Stoops has done a great job making the series more competitive. Now, it is time to go win one! Go Cats!
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