GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kentucky ended one of college football’s longest losing streaks by upsetting No. 25 Florida 27-16 on Saturday night in the Swamp.
Terry Wilson accounted for three touchdowns, Benny Snell ran for 175 yards, and the Wildcats beat the Gators for the first time since 1986. Kentucky hadn’t won in Gainesville since 1979.
The 31-game streak was the fourth-longest in NCAA history in an uninterrupted series, behind Notre Dame over Navy (43 games, 1964-2006), Nebraska over Kansas (36, 1969-2004) and Oklahoma over Kansas State (32, 1937-68).
The Wildcats had lost three of the past four meetings by six points or fewer, a strong indication that they were closing the gap.
It probably should have ended sooner. Florida needed triple-overtime to escape in 2014 and had to overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter last year in Lexington, in a game in which the Gators scored twice because receivers were left uncovered.
Coach Mark Stoops’ team did that again Saturday, but that was about all that went wrong for the Wildcats.
In fact, the Cats even got a break when Southeastern Conference officials ruled that Evan McPherson’s 36-yard field goal attempt was wide right. Replays showed the kick hooking and appearing to cross inside the upright. Instead of trimming the lead to 21-13, the Gators trailed by two scores heading into the final 15 minutes.
Kentucky couldn’t run out the clock, giving Florida one final shot. But Franks fumbled on a play the Gators thought was an incomplete pass, and it was returned for a touchdown on the final play.
Snell and Wilson staked Kentucky to an 11-point lead, running wild as the Cats controlled both lines of scrimmage.
Snell patiently waited for holes to open and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Wilson added 105 yards on the ground, including a 24-yard scoring run. Wilson completed 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards, with two TDs and an interception.
The victory was Stoops’ first in six tries in the series and a signature win in conference play. Stoops’ biggest win: Upsetting rival and then-No. 11 Louisville in 2016.
For Florida and first-year coach Dan Mullen, it was a reality check after they roughed up Charleston Southern 53-6 in the opener.
All the problems the Gators endured late last season — inability to stop the run, indecision at quarterback, inconsistent offensive line — were evident again.
The Gators lost an SEC opener for the first time since 2004, a 13-year streak that was the longest in school history.
Kentucky could have been up big early had Wilson not had two first-half turnovers. The sophomore also had three turnovers in the first half in the opener, a 35-20 victory against Central Michigan. Against Florida, Wilson fumbled close to field goal range and threw an interception near the goal line. He regrouped and rebounded from both, a sign of potential growth.
Florida could be in for another long year. Mullen thought he could depend on defense and a running game, but both let him down and looked like they could be issues again.
The Gators will have a short stay in the AP Top 25 college football poll.
Florida defensive end Cece Jefferson was suspended for the second consecutive game for academic issues.
The Gators did, however, get a number of players back who were suspended for the opener for “not living up to the Gator standard.” Receiver Kadarius Toney, defensive lineman Kyree Campbell, defensive tackle Luke Ancrum, cornerback Brian Edwards, running back Adarius Lemons and walk-on offensive lineman James Washington were available against the Wildcats.
Kentucky hosts Murray State of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday.
Florida hosts Colorado State in a somewhat awkward matchup. The Gators will pay ex-coach Jim McElwain’s former team $2 million for the trip. It was part of McElwain’s buyout from the Rams.
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