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Florida Gators

Gators keep rolling against Wildcats

AP Photo/John Raoux

As expected, the Florida Gators remained unbeaten on Saturday.

How good are the Gators? Who knows… but they were good enough to beat the Kentucky Wildcats.

Again.

For the 30th straight year, the Gators made Kentucky fans wish that basketball season began in September.

Florida 45, Kentucky 7.

Ordinarily, we would report that it was the most lopsided result in a lengthy SEC series. Only it really didn’t come close to that status.

Since Nov. 15, 1986 — when Kentucky defeated Florida 10-3 — the Gators have beaten the Wildcats by margins of 73-7 (1994), 65-0 (1996) and 63-5 (2008) in a streak that is now fourth-longest among Football Bowl Subdivision opponents that play annually.

The streak has reached its seventh Kentucky head coach — from Jerry Claiborne to Bill Curry to Hal Mumme to Guy Morriss to Rich Brooks to Joker Phillips and now to Mark Stoops, who absorbed his fourth straight defeat against the Gators.

Stoops had actually made some strides in the past two seasons with a 36-30 three-overtime defeat in 2014, then a 14-9 loss last year, marking only the sixth time in the streak that the Wildcats came within a touchdown of the Gators.

How good are the Gators?

Better question: How bad are the Wildcats?

Kentucky’s touchdown with 4:27 remaining halted a two-team run of 79 unanswered points against the Wildcats (dating to last week’s 44-35 loss against Southern Miss, when Kentucky folded up and lost a 35-10 advantage as the opening game neared halftime).

With Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville still remaining on Kentucky’s schedule, it’s already crisis time for a program that was trying to reach its first bowl game since the 2010 season.

The Wildcats have lost eight of their last nine games, dating to last season when a 4-1 start seemed to indicate a corner had been turned.

Nope. The Wildcats slid to a 5-7 finish, the program’s sixth consecutive losing season.

Patience already has run thin, but Stoops has a $12 million buyout if he’s fired at the end of this season, so where’s the hope? He’s now 12-26 at Kentucky at the beginning of his fourth season.

The outlook is considerably more optimistic at Florida, although the real litmus test occurs on Sept. 24, when the Gators travel to Tennessee and seek their 12th consecutive victory in that series.

Back to current events: It’s still hard to judge whether coach Jim McElwain’s offense is truly ready to take flight, although there were many positive signs.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio, in his second start, was 19 of 32 for 320 yards and four touchdowns — incredibly the first 300-yard passing game by a Florida player since 2013 (what in the name of Steve Spurrier is going on here?).

It helped greatly that wide receiver Antonio Callaway was in mid-season form. Callaway had five receptions for 129 yards and a 78-yard touchdown, again proving he might be the team’s most important player this season.

The Gators accumulated 564 yards to just 149 for Kentucky, which was victimized by its own mistakes and an aggressive Florida defense. The Gators had four sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble in a productive afternoon.

Great numbers. Winning numbers.

The Gators need to hope those numbers will show up later in the season, when the SEC schedule heats up.

Saturday’s result only proved one thing — that the Gators are able to beat Kentucky.

But we knew that already.

We’ve known it for 30 straight years.

Gators keep rolling against Wildcats

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