Florida Streak Reaches 31 as UK Falls In Heartbreak Fashion

Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor
Cats Illustrated

Gators erase 13-point second-half deficit to slip past mistake-prone Cats, 28-27. UK's long field goal attempt at buzzer falls just short after critical holding penalty. 

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Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Year 31 of Kentucky's remarkable losing streak to Florida will go down as one of the Wildcats' most excruciating.

The No. 20 Gators rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit on Saturday night at Kroger Field to beat UK 28-27.

Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) drove the length of the field in the final 43 seconds to give itself a chance at a potential game-winning field goal, but the Wildcats' Nick Haynes was called for holding to negate a Benny Snell run to the Florida 25 with six seconds remaining.

Instead of a nearly automatic 42-yard attempt for record-setting kicker Austin MacGinnis, UK had to settle for a 57-yarder at the buzzer. It fell just two or three feet short of the goalpost.

"As you can imagine, a very heartbreaking loss for us and our team," UK head coach Mark Stoops said. "... There's quite a few plays in games, and you never know which ones are going to decide the football game. And there's probably one of 12 plays in there than changed the game, and it's very disappointing that we didn't come up with those plays."

Florida (2-1, 2-0 SEC) won for the second straight week in dramatic fashion. The Gators beat Tennessee last weekend on a 63-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass as time expired.

"Just can’t tell you how much I really like our football team, our guys," Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. "They keep hanging in there and figuring out a way to play the game."

The game-winner proved to be a 5-yard touchdown pass from Luke Del Rio to an undefended Freddie Swain in the end zone with 43 seconds left. It was the second touchdown pass of the night from a Florida quarterback to an undefended receiver, the first coming before halftime on a 45-yard strike from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland.

"The breakdown in communication, defensively, on the two plays are really a sore spot because they stick out," Stoops said. "It takes away from the great passion and energy that our team played with."

Florida outgained UK 395-340 on the night with 138 of those yards coming on its final two drives to erase a 27-14 deficit. The Gators won the rushing battle 186-120, with Malik Davis carrying the ball 21 times for a game-high 93 yards.

Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson ompleted 17 of 25 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns, but the Cats' Benny Snell Jr. was held to 59 yards on 14 carries coming off back to back 100-yard performances.

"Obviously we’re not going to hang our heads, but this hurts," said UK tight end C.J. Conrad. "It was emotional. We put a lot into this game and to fall short like this is not a good feeling."

In this Cats Illustrated "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from UK's heartbreaking loss...

WHAT WENT WRONG:

Kentucky gave up 14 points on undefended passes due to defensive communication issues and a long pass on a trick play where the receiver got behind the defense to set up a third Florida touchdown. Meanwhile, pushed itself out of easy field goal range on three occasions. All totaled, the breakdowns led to a swing of 30 points. For arguably the first time during the 31-year losing streak, Kentucky was the better team, but still found a way to lose.

GAME BALL:

Malik Davis, Florida - Running the ball and stopping the run has been the Gators' weaknesses this season. All they did Saturday was whip UK in both categories, which were considered the Cats' strengths heading into the game. Davis' tough, power running was the difference.

BY THE NUMBERS:

0 - Plays on the field for Benny Snell Jr. on the Cats' three-and-out possession prior to Florida driving for the go-ahead score. Where was UK's "closer?"

1st - Career interception for UK safety Darius West.

2nd - Time in 20 games under Mark Stoops that UK has lost when holding a lead to start the fourth quarter.

3rd - Time UK held a lead in the fourth quarter during the losing streak to Florida (1993, 2003).

51-17 - Florida's all-time series lead over UK. It was 20-17 when the streak began in 1987.

58 - New UK career field goals record for MacGinnis, passing Joey Worley.

2003 - The last year that UK outgained Florida in the rushing column.

QUOTABLE:

"We talked about how important run offense and run defense was, and (Florida) won that battle tonight." - UK head coach Mark Stoops

UP NEXT:

The Cats return to Kroger Field next Saturday to face Eastern Michigan. The Eagles (2-1) lost 27-20 in double-overtime today against MAC rival Ohio. Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

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