Florida beats Kentucky 38-0, extends streak
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The latest game in the Kentucky-Florida series went about like the previous four: the Gators took the lead early and won in lopsided fashion.
Jeff Driskel accounted for two touchdowns, and No. 14 Florida beat Kentucky 38-0 Saturday for its 26th consecutive win in the Southeastern Conference series.
The Gators (4-0, 3-0 SEC) also recorded their first shutout in conference play since a 52-0 victory against Mississippi State in 2001.
"Any time you get a shutout, man, those things are hard to come by in this day and age of football, regardless of who you're playing," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Florida struggled early, not a great sign with No. 2 LSU up next in two weeks. The slow start also was a rarity against the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1). The Gators had outscored Kentucky 94-3 in the first quarter in the last four meetings, essentially sealing games before some fans settled into their seats.
It took just a little longer Saturday.
The Gators scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, enough to put Kentucky away and extend the nation's longest winning streak in a current series between two teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Wildcats haven't beaten Florida since 1986, haven't won in Gainesville since 1979 and haven't been all that competitive in the last five meetings. Florida has outscored Kentucky 238-36 in those five games.
"We didn't mention it," Driskel said of the streak. "That stat didn't really make us want to play any harder or play any different. We were going to come out and prepare like it's another SEC East team and they're just another team in the way of our goal."
Kentucky hardly had a chance in this one.
The Wildcats, who entered with the league's top passing attack, played without quarterback Maxwell Smith. He sat out with a shoulder injury. Backup Morgan Newton missed open receivers early and often, diminishing his team's already slim chance at an upset.
"I think Morgan was throwing it to the right person; we just weren't very accurate," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. "Again, for us to be successful in this offense, you have to be able to throw and catch, and we weren't able to do that today."
Kentucky finished with 60 yards passing.
Newton completed 7 of 21 passes for 48 yards, with three interceptions. He was benched in favor of Jalen Whitlow in the fourth. Smith watched from the sideline -- unable to do anything to help.
"To run the risk of him being out for a long period of time if he got hit and injured today, I was not ready to do that," Phillips said. "I'm treating him as if he's my kid and I just did want to do that. The risk was not worth the reward."
De'Ante Saunders, Jaylen Watkins and Michael Taylor each picked off passes from Newton in the decisive second quarter.
The Gators, though, only turned one of them into points.
Watkins anticipated Newton's pass in the flat, made the interception and returned it 26 yards for a 17-0 lead.
Florida could have turned Taylor's pick into points, but Muschamp decided to have his offense run a play with no timeouts and 16 seconds remaining in the half. The Gators could have attempted a 46-yard field goal -- well within Caleb Sturgis' range -- but tried to get closer.
Driskel got sacked, allowing the clock to run out.
Driskel completed 18 of 27 passes for 203 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran eight times for 35 yards and a score. His 38-yard run in the first quarter seemed to spark Florida after two three-and-out drives to start the game.
"Every game is really a building block in development," Driskel said. "The more experience, the more reps you get, the more you're going to learn. I did some nice things today, but there's definitely some things I need to clean up. ... I think I did a nice job with the opportunities I got."
Driskel hooked up with Dunbar for a 19-yard TD pass in the second quarter and plunged across the goal line for a 1-yard sneak in the third as the Gators built a 31-0 lead.
Backup Jacoby Brissett played most of the fourth. His 1-yard sneak make it 38-0.
Mike Gillislee ran 13 times for 56 yards before giving way to Matt Jones and Mack Brown.
Florida's defense gave up chunks of yards early, but settled down and pretty much shut Kentucky down late.
"The turnovers were big for us," Taylor said. "Turnovers equal points, and points equal wins."
Aiding the shutout, Kentucky's Craig McIntosh missed two field goals. He was wide left on a 54-yarder in the first and wide right from 46 yards out in the second.
"It definitely feels like a missed opportunity," Kentucky running back Raymond Sanders said. "We just have to keep building and keep getting better."