CRAWFORD | At the horn: First take from Kentucky's 14-9 loss to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At the horn: First take from Kentucky's 14-9 loss to Florida

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — The streak is one year away from the big 3-0. It reached 29 on Saturday night in Commonwealth Stadium, with Florida’s 14-9 victory over the University of Kentucky.

The nation’s longest winning streak (or losing streak, depending on your perspective) over a major-conference opponent in an annual series lives on.

It just sits there on the couch, staring at the television, hogging the remote, eating all the food, not finding a job. You can renovate the house, but the streak is still living here.

TRANSCRIPT & RAW VIDEO | Mark Stoops after the Florida loss

Florida used a dogged defense and just enough offense to beat Kentucky, including a second quarter in which the Wildcats ran just six plays.

"This was a very disappointing loss," UK coach Mark Stoops said. "We didn't play a clean enough football game. . . . We have to go back to work."

Some initial thoughts:

1. GOT THE JOB DONE: The Florida defense was dominant for most of three quarters, then started wobbling in the fourth. But the Gators still kept a dangerous UK offense out of the end zone for an entire game. Also, Florida quarterback Will Grier didn’t blow anyone away with his numbers, but he repeatedly made the plays Florida needed him to make, either running or throwing, and managed the Gators well enough to escape. For Kentucky, Boom Williams carried 16 times for 80 yards, but didn’t get the ball enough.

2. DIDN’T GET THE JOB DONE: Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles just never found a rhythm. Florida’s talented defense bothered him with heavy pressure all night, and its secondary made throws difficult with press coverage. In Towles’ defense, he had several huge passes dropped, including a touchdown in the first quarter. But he also took a huge sack on 3rd and 10 with 46 seconds left, which set up a 4th and 22 on UK’s final play. He finished 8 of 24 for 126 yards and two interceptions.

3. TURNING POINT: Florida was driving on Kentucky, up 14-3 with 6:18 left in the third quarter. The Gators were grinding down the clock, wearing down the Kentucky defense. They had it at first-and-goal at the UK five yard line when Will Grier dropped back on a play action pass and threw one into the end zone that UK’s J.D. Harmon intercepted, for his second of the season. And the Commonwealth Stadium crowd awakened.

The offense nearly squandered the momentum, but on 3rd and nine on the ensuing possession, Towles rolled right, then scrambled 33 yards down to the Florida 46, plus a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Florida. It was more yards than UK managed the entire second quarter, and shook the Wildcats’ offense to life. The Wildcats couldn’t find the end zone, but that sliver of life led them to a couple of field goals that ensured it would be a game to the finish. But the Wildcats couldn’t ride their momentum far enough.

Upon further review: It's too early to call something that happened on the game's second series a "turning point." But I should have. Dorian Baker dropped a 40-yard pass from Towles in the end zone on UK's first series, then Florida wound up intercepting Towles and scoring a touchdown of its own. Put UK up 7-0 at that point, and it's a different game in many ways.

4. SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The Kentucky defense, which has struggled against the run all season, held Florida to just 245 yards of total offense. That's the fewest it has allowed to Florida since beating the Gators in 1986.

"I was proud of the overall (defensive) effort," Stoops said. "I really was. I felt like the guys were in good position and that's what I look for of how we play all the situations. I felt like that Coach Eliot really had the guys prepared to make plays. Again, when we're ought there, we could tell whether things are giving us issues or not. We know there's matchup problems and you ain't ever going to just solve it all the time, but we had a good plan, we had guys in position, and I was proud of their effort. Again, I just wish we could have made a few more."

5. WDRB PLAYER OF THE GAME: Grier suffered an injury midway through the fourth quarter, but still showed enough grit to get his team by in an SEC environment on the road, in which the crowd and opponent were primed to end one of the longest active streaks in college football. He finished with 61 yards on 12 carries, and a touchdown, while completing 13 of 22 passes for 125 yards.

6. STATS OF THE DAY: The streak is the only stat that matters at the moment. Florida won this game while going only 2-for-11 on third down. UK went just 6 of 18. Florida’s six sacks of Towles also played a huge role.

7. WHAT WE LEARNED: Kentucky can play in the second half. It still struggled in the third quarter, but for the first time faced with a fourth quarter in which it didn’t have a lead, the Wildcats found a way to seize momentum, fought back, made huge defensive plays, and came from behind to beat a quality opponent. But it lacked offense against a talented SEC defensive front. For all of the hype about being ready to perhaps crash the AP Top 25 with a win, the Wildcats still have work to do.

8. NOW WHAT? The Wildcats continue SEC play at home next Saturday when Missouri visits Commonwealth Stadium. The Tigers entered Saturday ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll, but needed a Matt Mauk two-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and a late interception to hold of Connecticut 9-6 in Columbia, Mo. Missouri improved to 3-0, Mauk completed 14 of 22 passes for 145 yards and an interception.

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