Kentucky’s last football victory over Florida came in 1986. President Ronald Reagan was in office. Americans weren’t talking on cell phones. They weren’t surfing the internet, either. The average new car cost $9,255. A gallon of gas could be had for 89 cents. Halley’s Comet, Chernobyl and the Iran-Contra affair were all hot topics.
Since then, Florida has whipped the Wildcats in 26 consecutive games. That’s the longest current uninterrupted string of victories by one school over another in Division I.
On Saturday the two teams will meet at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Florida — a preseason top 10 team — comes in with a 2-1 record. Kentucky enters the contest at 1-2 and looks to be the worst team in the Southeastern Conference.
But that’s not stopping a pair of UK players and a Florida-based pot-stirring columnist from talking about how beatable the Gators are.
Wildcat defensive end Za’Darius Smith — a juco transfer who’ll be playing in his first SEC game — said Florida is “an OK team.” He added, “I’m not just going to say they’re all that. Hey, it’s the SEC.” when asked if the Gators looked bigger and better than the teams Kentucky has already faced this year, Smith said: “No they didn’t, they actually looked smaller that people we already played.”
For the record, Kentucky has played Western Kentucky (loss), Miami of Ohio (win) and Louisville (loss) to date.
Meanwhile, senior Cat linebacker Avery Williamson said the players are using the 26-game losing streak as a “chip on the shoulder” this week in practice. “I think it’s a very beatable game… I know it is. You have to go in with that attitude and come out with a win.”
Down in the Sunshine State, Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel writes that without quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken leg versus Tennessee) and star D-lineman Dominique Easley (an ACL tear in practice this week), “a loss to Kentucky Saturday for the first time since 1986 is not out of the question.”
Bianchi correctly points out that injuries — less than a full-month into the season — are already taking a serious toll on the Gators. In addition to Driskel and Easley, offensive tackles Chaz Green and returner/receiver Andre DeBose are also on the shelf.
Toss in the fact that Will Muschamp has won with defense and very little offense since arriving in Gainesville and you do have the recipe for close game after close game after close game. And should new quarterback Tyler Murphy and his teammates turn the ball over three times — as they did last Saturday against a Tennessee squad that gave it away six times — yes, Kentucky could snap Florida’s streak.
Also keep in mind that new coach Mark Stoops is quite familiar with the Gators from his days as Florida State’s defensive coordinator.
So is it possible Kentucky can snap the nation’s longest head-to-head losing streak Saturday night? Sure it is. But until the scoreboard clock hits zeroes and the Wildcats have more points, we’re going to remain skeptical of a UK victory over Florida.
SIDENOTE — For those wondering, that’s Kentucky quarterback Bill Ransdell leading the Wildcats to their 10-3 win over Florida back in ’86.