CRAWFORD | Post-snap read: The streak lives -- Florida edges Kentucky at wire
Kentucky had all the momentum, but Florida came storming at the finish to extend its winning streak over the Wildcats to 31 years.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – The streak lives. Florida 28, Kentucky 27. It grows to 31 years. And this one was among the most painful inflicted by the Gators in that run.
Kentucky led Florida by 13 in the fourth quarter in a rocking Kroger Field Saturday night, and I’d like to tell you I didn’t hear footsteps.
But I heard them. We waited 37 years for a Triple Crown. Last year, Kentucky’s football losing streak to Florida entered its third decade. When something goes on that long, you can’t help looking over your shoulder.
So when Kentucky went up 24-14 in the third quarter, the nagging feeling was still there.
I kept looking for the spoiler. Where was Nick Zito? Do I hear Birdstone pounding down the stretch? Where’s Sarava? Touch Gold? Danny Wuerffel? Tim Tebow?
When it comes to Kentucky-Florida, it isn’t over until the final horn, and depending on who is running the play clock, sometimes that’s not even enough.
Then Austin MacGinnis made his 50th career field goal, from 50 yards out, to make it 27-14 with 11:33 left in the game. The press box started shaking. The crowd felt it. They felt like they were watching Secretariat heading for home.
And why not? During the pregame playing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” UK honored Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, who died last week.
It was fate.
And then it wasn’t. A tremendous machine, Kentucky wasn't. During a timeout with just under eight minutes to play, they played “Highway to Hell” on the UK public address system. How did they know?
Florida kept coming. The Gators pulled within 27-21 on a 7-play, 80-yard drive. They got the ball back and drove into Kentucky territory with less than four minutes to play. Kentucky’s defense battled the Gators to a fourth-and-2 situation, but Luke Del Rio scrambled and hit Mark Thompson to convert it.
The excruciating drive continued. Another fourth down, and inches, at the 21-yard line with 1:54 to play. Malik Davis plowed seven yards to the 14. Two plays later they were at the five.
Then mass confusion. Coming out of a Florida timeout Kentucky had two players running off the field as the ball was snapped, and Del Rio had Freddy Swain wide open in the right side of the end zone.
With 43 seconds left, after an inexorable 13-play, 58-yard drive that took 5:48, Florida had the lead 28-27.
Kentucky wasn’t finished. Stephen Johnson hit Garrett Johnson for an 11-yard completion, and Florida made a crucial error, roughing Johnson after the play, for another 15 yards, and Kentucky was at the Florida 49, one decent completion away from a makeable game-winning field goal try.
Johnson missed on back-to-back passes, and a screen to Benny Snell was snuffed out. The Wildcats faced fourth down at midfield with 21 seconds left. Then Johnson hit Charles Walker for 14 yards to the Florida 35. With 11 seconds left.
MacGinnis is money. From 52 yards, put it on his leg. Kentucky wanted to get a little closer. They ran a play for Benny Snell, he sprinted 15 yards up the middle to the 20. But in the backfield, there was a flag. Holding on Kentucky. The 10-yarder backed the Wildcats out of field goal range.
After a Florida injury, Kentucky took a timeout, inexplicably. Down to one play, Johnson hit Walker at the Florida 39. And MacGinnis came in to try a 57-yarder. He’s good. But it was too much to ask. It fell short, and Florida celebrated.
This one hurts because Kentucky stood toe-to-toe with the Gators. It was no fluke.
Kentucky kept the initiative throughout. The Wildcats scored on their second possession, an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard TD pass from Stephen Johnson to Blake Bone.
Florida settled into stalking position. It answered with a 4-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 36-yard TD run by wideout Kadarius Toney.
The teams went to the half tied at 14, after TD passes from Johnson to Garrett Johnson and Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland.
But in the end, disorganization doomed the Wildcats. Twice coming out of timeouts, the Wildcats left receivers uncovered and gave up touchdown passes. With a chance to win the game, a holding penalty.
That’s how streaks grow past three decades.
Kentucky will have to regroup quickly. This team should still be 5-1 in a couple of weeks.
But this one hurt. The win would’ve been huge for the program. The day had gone perfectly. The team played well. The crowd was as good as I've ever witnessed for a Kentucky game.
But the streak still lives.
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