Wildcats overcome three decade long losing streak against Gators
The long-suffering Kentucky football fan has suffered a seemingly never ending array of disappointments season after season. These have been goal line stands, game winning turnovers morph into game costing fumbles, and a seemingly endless array of creative ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Something different happened Saturday night in the vaunted Swamp, home of the Florida Gators. Was it program changing? Time will tell that tale but it felt like the last of those program’s demons being exorcised.
Kentucky versus Florida in football was the most consistent thing in a wildly inconsistent world. Every year since 1986 had seen Kentucky fall to the Gators. The streak started mildly enough, close losses to evenly matched teams. Then 1993 happened. 7 interceptions by the Wildcat defense led to nothing as Danny Wuerffel threw to Chris Doering for a touchdown as time expired. The rest of the decade would be an exercise in Gator domination as the two programs went different directions.
Close calls would follow in 2003, 2014, 2015, and 2017. Each game would have the look of an inevitable Kentucky victory and each time defeat would chomp away. Would this streak ever end? After last year, when everything aligned to a 27-14 4th quarter lead and still falling short it seemed impossible.
To break any cycle as entrenched as that one there needs to be a certain brashness exhibited among the team. There needs to be a confident Kash Daniel making 11 tackles. There needs to be a Benny Snell seeking out contact and running over Florida defenders. There has to be a QB unfazed by prior history and prior mistakes. Terry Wilson overcame a fumble and interception in the first half to account for 2 of Kentucky’s 3 TD’s with an electrifying run and a strike to Lynn Bowden, Jr in the second. Finally, there has to be a confidence among the leadership. Mark Stoops has built a program from the ground up after the rough final years of Joker Phillips. He has ignored the noise around him and accomplished things not easily done at Kentucky…the biggest of which happened last night in the Swamp.
Kentucky football fans have grown accustomed to disappointment but last night that changed with the Wildcats 27-16 victory. In the heat and humidity of the Swamp the demons were let go. It is a program with a cast of characters unfazed by history and extremely confident in their own abilities. Will this be a program changing win? We don’t know yet but for one night in Gainesville it felt like it.
Photo caption: Kentucky running back Benny Snell rushed for 175 yards in Kentucky's 27-16 win over Florida Saturday night in Gainesville, ending a 31-game losing streak to the Gators. (UK Athletics Photo)