LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Florida defense was as good as advertised.
Just how dominant were the Gators on that side of the ball Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium?
Kentucky’s leading rusher wore jersey No. 88 – kicker Joe Mansour – who converted a crafty fake field goal for a 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for the Wildcats’ only score in a 24-7 loss to the No. 20 Gators.
Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC) held UK to 48 net rushing yards on 21 carries in cruising to its 27th straight win over the Wildcats. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC) finished with only 173 total yards, most coming long after the game was long decided.
“Give Florida credit. They did what I was worried about going into the game,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. “They really controlled both lines of scrimmage the entire game. Very physical team. Right from the opening drive, they kind of set the tone of what the night was going to be like. It's a very good football team, very physical football team.”
Kentucky quarterbacks Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow were held to 125 combined passing yards and were sacked five times by the Gators.
Despite having its quarterback starting the first game of his career on the road, Florida didn’t have many problems solving the UK defense. Tyler Murphy completed his first 13 passes and finished 15 of 18 for 156 yards. He was perfect on the night until a third-quarter interception by the Wildcats’ Josh Forrest.
That play didn’t hurt the Gators, who got a pick of their own five plays later when freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves made an athletic grab of a Maxwell Smith pass intended for Javess Blue in the back of the end zone to preserve a 21-7 Florida lead.
“We had a few opportunities to make it a game, and didn't make them,” Stoops said. “It was going to be hard. We knew that going into it. Felt like we had a few opportunities here and there. Just didn't capitalize on the plays.”
Matt Jones had 176 yards rushing on 28 mostly-workmanlike carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run to cap a 13-play, 95-yard drive by Florida to open the game. He later added a 67-yard run that was the biggest play on a night where the Gators strung together a lot of solid, if unspectacular, gains.
Florida’s second touchdown of the night came on a 9-yard pass from Murphy to UK-killer Trey Burton. A senior H-back, Burton now has eight career touchdowns against the Wildcats among his 20 scores.
Murphy also carried the football seven times for 36 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run just before the half that put the Gators up two scores.
After a scoreless third quarter, Florida's Austin Hardin added a 33-yard field goal with 10:49 remaining in the game to cap the night's scoring.
The Gators outgained UK 402-173 and controled the ball for 38:09. The Wildcats had a season-low 47 snaps and 21:51 time of possession. The finished the night 1-for-8 on third down conversions.
Kentucky's last win against Florida came in 1986. It's the longest active streak in the FBS for a continuous series.