Kentucky Wildcats take aim at ending 30 years of frustration versus Florida

Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor
Cats Illustrated

UK cannot avoid the question this week, Mark Stoops acknowledges, but streak will have no impact on Saturday's game. 

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Kim Clement/USA Today

Mark Stoops knows what it feels like to be on the proper side of a Florida streak.

During his weekly press luncheon Monday, the Kentucky head coach recalled that he never lost to the Gators during stints as an assistant coach with the Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles.

"I’ve got to get that going again," said Stoops, whose 3-0 Wildcats enter this week seeking to end the longest active losing streak in Division I football, a 30-game skid against Florida that dates back to 1987.

So, UK fans of a certain age, prepare to see those lists about how much a gallon of gas cost way back then. Or what Ronald Reagan was up to in the White House. Or maybe reminisce about that hilarious 'do you had and those parachute pants you were wearing while listening to Wang Chung.

It's that week again.

The last four Ls in the ghastly streak belong to Stoops, including a pair of close calls in 2014 and 2015 that could have ended the nightmare for UK. But as far as he is concerned, none of the previous 30 setbacks, such as last year's 45-7 shellacking in Gainesville, mean much in the grand scheme of things.

"You know, honestly, I haven't addressed that before," he said. "It's never been my approach. These guys haven't been here for 30 years. We'll see. I'll go with my gut on how much we'll talk about that or if at all.

"Every year is a new year. This is a new team. That's always been my approach."

Stoops acknowledged that it's impossible to shield his players from the buzz in this age of social media.

He even gets his fair share of it around Lexington. "I’ve heard a lot of things." (Laughs)

"I do feel the importance of it," Stoops added. "... I don’t deny that it’s a big game at home and that I desperately would like to win for the fan base."

Using that for motivation during the week can be a good thing, Stoops noted. If it helps your preparation, it can be a positive. But there is also a danger of getting too hyped on gameday.

“Definitely. We’ll talk about that and we’ll address that," he said.

The message had to be reinforced to the media as well on Monday. When one reported suggested that Florida did not look as scary as it has in the past, Stoops scoffed.

"You're crazy," he replied. "I’ve watched them play and they’re the same Florida team. They’re a very, very good football team. Don’t you put words in my mouth.

"The only thing I see when you play a team like that is good athletes. A lot of good players, very explosive."

Florida (1-1, 1-0 SEC) is coming off a 26-20 win over Tennessee, connecting on a Hail Mary pass from 63 yards out to beat the Volunteers as time expired at The Swamp. The No. 20 Gators opened the season with a 33-17 loss to Michigan.

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