Preview: No. 25 Florida looks to run win streak vs. Kentucky to 32 straight
It was second.
Now, a decade later, Mullen has rejoined the Gators with “The Streak” on the verge of moving another step closer to NCAA history.
No. 25 Florida (1-0) is seeking its 32nd consecutive victory against Kentucky (1-0) when the teams open Southeastern Conference play in the Swamp on Saturday. It’s the longest active streak in an uninterrupted series and the fourth-longest in NCAA history.
“It’s 31, right? It’ll be 32 after Saturday,” Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said confidently.
If Florida wins, the streak would be tied for third-longest in college football, matching Oklahoma‘s run against Kansas State (1937-68). The only ones longer: Notre Dame over Navy (43 straight between 1964 and 2002) and Nebraska over Kansas (36 in a row between 1969 and 2004).
Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida since 1986 and hasn’t won in Gainesville since 1979.
Wildcats coach Mark Stoops is winless in five tries against the Gators, although three of the last four have been decided by six points or less. Florida needed triple overtime to preserve the streak in 2014 and rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter last year.
Stoops openly embraces the streak, knowing what it would mean to end it.
“I never dance around that question,” Stoops said. “It is important to us for that reason, but we can’t focus on it for that reason. We need to focus on it because it’s this year. It’s an SEC team, it’s in the East and we want to win some football games, and they are next on the schedule.
“That’s truthfully what it is about. These guys cannot worry about 30-some years and all that. They really can’t. Winning is important to our team each and every week, and that’s the approach we’ll have.”
In Mullen’s final year as Florida’s offensive coordinator (2008), the Gators made it 22 straight against Kentucky.
At the time, Tennessee actually had a longer winning streak against the Wildcats. That one reached 26 in a row before Kentucky snapped it in 2011.
“I imagine, someday, the streak will be broken,” said Mullen, who lost once in nine games against the Cats during his Mississippi State tenure. “That’s just the nature of sports, right? … I’m confident. We want to go win the game. To me, I want to win the game because it’s our SEC opener for this season. That’s got to be the whole focus and not worry about anything else.
“I try not to think about it in those terms because it really has no effect on us winning or losing the game this year.”
Here are some other things to know about Kentucky and Florida as they open league play against each other for the third time in the last five years:
Junior Benny Snell Jr. and sophomore A.J. Rose combined for 229 of Kentucky’s 299 yards rushing against Central Michigan last week. They might need to do it again to upset Florida.
Rose ran eight times for a career-high 104 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown. Snell added a 52-yard score, giving the team two 100-yard rushers for the first time since Snell and Boom Williams did it two years ago at Missouri.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was nearly perfect in the opener against lower-division Charleston Southern, throwing for 219 yards and five TDs in a half of work. How Franks performs against an SEC opponent should tell more about the strides he’s made under Mullen.
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson had three of the team’s four first-half turnovers in the opener. Stoops expects better ball security against Florida.
“We’ll overemphasize that again,” Stoops said. “But we’re not going to panic about it. We’ve been pretty solid with that. We have to get it under control because, again, from our past experience, you go back two years (at Florida), we turn the ball over like we did that year then the results are not going to be very good.”
The Gators have won 13 consecutive SEC openers, the longest streak in program history.
Florida will honor its 1993 team at the end of the first quarter , celebrating the 25-year anniversary of a team that beat Alabama in the SEC title game and won the Sugar Bowl for the first time in school history. The team also is known for a dramatic, last-second victory against Kentucky.
“Heck of a team,” former coach Steve Spurrier said.