Kentucky has beaten LSU seven times and Georgia five since the Wildcats last beat Florida in 1986.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Beat Florida?
"I don't remember it being a big deal that we beat Florida," Mike Pfeifer said. "I thought we were supposed to beat Florida every year. Heck, we beat LSU and Georgia, too. That's why we went to Kentucky, to beat those schools."
Pfeifer and Andy Murray played football at Trinity High School. Jerry Claiborne recruited them into the program he was building at the University of Kentucky in 1985. They accepted scholarships at UK even though Howard Schnellenberger wanted them to be part of the first class he recruited at Louisville.
They preferred to play at Kentucky. They preferred to play in the Southeastern Conference. They expected to beat Florida – and they were part of the UK team that defeated the Gators, 10-3, on Nov. 15, 1986. Bill Ransdell, the Kentucky quarterback, completed 20 of 23 passes on a cold, charcoal day in Commonwealth Stadium.
The Wildcats have not beaten the Gators again in 26 consecutive games. It is the longest streak of losses in a series played annually in college football. (Penn State has beaten Temple 30 straight, but the schools don't play every season.) The Gators visit Lexington Saturday.
"I heard on the radio the other day that the last time Kentucky beat Florida was 1986 and I couldn't believe it," said Pfeifer. "That's crazy."
"I couldn't tell you the score or much of what went on," Murray said. "But when I think about that game the first guy I think about is Coach Claiborne.
"As everybody knows, everybody who takes the Kentucky job, they're immediately told that we've never had success in football and they're asked what they're going to do different. So there are two games that come to mind with Coach Claiborne – that Florida game and then we beat Georgia (in 1988).
"As players, I don't remember our reaction being anything special. I remember more leading into the game that Florida's quarterback was Kerwin Bell, who was really good. All week our defense talked about ringing Kerwin's bell.
"But Coach Claiborne reacted differently after those two games because he understood what it meant to beat one of those upper-echelon teams in the SEC."
In the seasons since that victory, Kentucky has delivered victories against 42 different college football programs – Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, Rutgers, Louisville.
The Wildcats have won against 10 different SEC programs. They have defeated Louisiana State seven times and Georgia five. They ended another 26-game losing streak against Tennessee two seasons ago.
Loss after loss after loss. There has been a 24-21 defeat and a 24-20 and a 24-19, but 44-10 is usually more like it.
What happened? Many things have happened. Steve Spurrier landed in Gainesville in 1990. Spurrier made Florida Florida. Spurrier had meager respect for the coaching ability of Bill Curry, the UK coach who followed Claiborne. Spurrier enjoyed showing Curry that he was a better coach with better players and better results.
But the streak has continued – under Ron Zook, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp at Florida and despite the determined efforts of Curry, Hal Mumme, Guy Morriss, Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips at UK.
Now Florida is a credibility game – and a mind game. Ask Charlie Strong and Louisville. The Cardinals showed it could be done last January. Mark Stoops will earn a similar bump whenever he beats the Gators.
Pfeifer operates a construction company in Louisville. Murray is a businessman in Independence, Ky., south of Cincinnati. Each believes that Stoops was an excellent choice to make the Wildcats competitive in the SEC again. Murray said he believes that Stoops' focus on recruiting Ohio is a winning game-plan.
"There's always a mystique that you walk out on the field and you see these teams that you grew up watching on television," Murray said. "You get that pit in your stomach of, ‘There's Alabama warming up over there,' or ‘There's LSU warming up over there.'
"We had leaders on our teams who would yell at players and tell them to stop looking at the uniforms of the other guys warming up. Once you overcome that and have some success, there's a confidence that builds in a program. That's what Coach Stoops is trying to achieve."
That is what Kentucky achieved on Nov. 15, 1986 against Florida.