No. 14 Florida tries to extend streak vs. Kentucky
No. 14 Florida has been a second-half team this season, outscoring opponents 50-13 after halftime and 27-0 in the fourth quarter.
That could change against Kentucky.
The Gators (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) have had a penchant for fast starts against the Wildcats (1-2), outscoring them 94-3 in the first quarter in the last four meetings. That early game success led to four consecutive blowouts, which helped make the series one of the most one-sided in college football.
Florida has won 25 consecutive games against Kentucky, the longest current win streak in an annual series in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Gators will try to extend their dominance Saturday in The Swamp.
''None of those wins or losses have anything to do with Saturday,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said, shaking his head emphatically. ''Zero.''
The Wildcats, who ended a longer losing streak to Tennessee last season, certainly believe they have a shot.
''Every team we play we feel like we got a chance to win,'' running back Jonathan George said. ''We're gonna attack, we're gonna work hard and keep the mentality that we can win. Anything is possible.''
Maybe so. But Florida has owned this series in recent years.
The Gators have used those fast starts to outscore Kentucky 200-36 in the last four games.
''You had to remind me,'' Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
Phillips hasn't beaten Florida in 22 tries - two as a head coach, four as a player and 16 as an assistant.
No one in Florida's locker room could fathom that kind of frustration.
''It would (stink) not being able to beat a team, and I think it's 25 years in a row we've beaten them or whatever,'' safety Josh Evans said. ''But that statistic is thrown out the room. It's a new year and anything's capable of happening in the SEC. We don't look at their bad plays and what they need to work on. We look at what we need to work on, what we can do better and how we can win this game.''
The Gators figure they need to slow down Kentucky's passing attack to extend the streak.
The Wildcats lead the SEC and rank 13th nationally in passing, averaging 322 yards a game through the air. Sophomore Maxwell Smith has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 966 yards and eight touchdowns.
Tennessee had some pockets of success throwing against Florida last week, but the Gators clamped down in the second half. Florida gave up 120 yards after the break, including five in the fourth quarter, and just six points.
Coming off back-to-back road wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee and knowing an off week and then a home game against No. 2 LSU follow, Florida might seem like it's primed for a letdown against Kentucky.
Then again, the Gators have played three consecutive stinkers at home - Furman and Florida State last November and Bowling Green in the season opener - and realize the Wildcats have plenty of motivation.
''We got to keep going,'' linebacker Jon Bostic said. ''We can't look at it like we've beaten them so many times. It's a team that is going to line up and try to beat us as well. We can't try to look down on them.''
No players on either side of this series were around for Kentucky's last win over Florida in 1986, and a few coaches weren't even born the last time the Wildcats won in Gainesville (1979).
Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease was on the losing end in 2001 and 2002, when he served as Kentucky's play caller, and knows the talent gap leaves little margin for error.
''We knew we had to be on our game,'' Pease said. ''We couldn't have a lot of mistakes. We had to keep the game close.''
Now, Pease might want to run up the score.
Former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen took some shots at Pease after Florida hired him.
''He's freaking crazy and was brutal at UK when I was there,'' Lorenzen posted on his Twitter page. ''The good thing about Pease at UF is now we can shut them down.''
Pease responded by telling a Gator Club meeting in July that Lorenzen's remarks would be ''good for about two extra launch plays, trying to get 50 points on those guys when they come to campus.''
Pease backpedaled this week, saying Lorenzen's remarks were ''free speech America.''
As for scoring 50 - exactly what the Gators have averaged in the last four meetings?
''Hey, I didn't make a quote there,'' Pease said. ''You know, I had fun. And I was responding to a question. That's nothing personal.''