CRAWFORD | Early excitement fades for Cats, Florida wins 24-7 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Early excitement fades for Cats, Florida wins 24-7

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- There comes a time in most games when the chance presents itself. For the University of Kentucky in Saturday's 24-7 loss to Florida in Commonwealth Stadium, that time was the third quarter.

With Florida chewing up yardage and the clock, Josh Forest intercepted a Tyler Murphy pass and ran it back 39 yards to the Florida 37.

The Gators led only 21-7. After two Maxwell Smith completions to Javess Blue, the Wildcats had it at the Florida 22, with first down and the fans were into it.

Then the Wildcats tried a trick play. Daryl Collins took a flip from Jalen Whitlow and was supposed to throw back to the quarterback, it appeared. Instead, he was sacked for an 11-yard loss.

On their next play, Smith threw into the end zone and was intercepted by Vernon Hargreaves, and that was it.

The score was the same. Florida scored only one more time in the game, but Kentucky had missed its moment.

I'm not saying that UK would've gone on to beat Florida had it punched a touchdown in after that interception. But it would've been a start. That's the challenge for new UK coach Mark Stoops -- to make those opportunity plays.

Florida's game plan wasn't difficult. Pound the ball. The Gators worked down the field methodically, churning up 93 yards on 13 plays and eating up more than seven minutes of possession to take a 7-0 lead after the opening kickoff.

UK's opening drive was just as encouraging. The Wildcats drove to the Florida 40-yard line behind Jalen Whitlow, then Maxwell Smith entered and they went to the 25 before stalling. On the ensuing field goal attempt, Stoops dialed up a Les Miles special, the same flip pass Les Miles used against Florida in 2010. Joe Mansour took the toss and fooled everyone, going untouched into the end zone for a 25-yard score that tied the game at 7.

The Commonwealth Stadium crowd announced at 62,076 was as loud as it has been since the Wildcats beat Tennessee in 2011. That victory ended a 26-year losing streak.

This 26-year streak, however, will continue.

After driving 75 yards on their opening drive, UK had only 49 in the rest of the first half and only 98 the rest of the game. The fast-paced UK offense that aims to run 75-plus plays per game only got to run 47 plays against a Florida team that came in with a simple game plan -- control possession.

The Gators piled up a possession edge of 38 minutes to 22. Florida running back Matt Jones ran for more yards (176) than UK managed in the game (173).

The Wildcats were just 1 of 8 on third-down, after going 0-for-13 against Louisville in their previous game.

The multiple-quarterback experience, on this night, was not productive. Whitlow had a good rhythm early that appeared to be killed when Smith came into the game. Whitlow completed 5 of 6 passes for 35 yards. Smith hit on 12 of 20 for 90 yards.

UK was outgained 402 yards to 173. Its longest rushing play was Mansour's fake field goal TD. JoJo Kemp led the rest with 19 yards rushing, but got only three carries.

Despite some promise -- and some opportunities -- the Wildcats still have a ways to go. It's not so far a way, however, as it might look.

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