By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Forget about the streak. That’s right. Forget about it. That’s the best thing UK Football players could do this week to prepare for a trip to Gainesville to meet the Florida Gators. Completely ignore the 31-game losing streak to the Florida Gators. Here’s why.
Florida always has a talented football team. Their recruiting classes for the last five years have averaged 13th in the country per 247sports. The state of Florida produces top notch football talent along I-10 from Panama City all the way down I-95 to Miami and the University of Florida gets more than their fair share. Make no mistake that some of the most talented players in the country will be lined up on the Florida side of the football.
They also have a new head coach in Dan Mullen. That Dan Mullen. The one that was formerly the head coach at Mississippi State. The one that has a 4-1 record against UK Coach Mark Stoops – Stoops only win being a 40-38 victory in 2016 on a last second field goal at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Gators also have a difficult stadium to play in. Florida’s Stadium – “The Swamp” – has been notorious for creating a definite home field advantage for the normally tough Gator Football Team. The weather conditions are always difficult in Gainesville in early September. This Saturday will be no exception.
The forecast is for scattered thunderstorms with a high temperature of 88 degrees and a humidity level hovering around the 70% mark. That would make a heat index of around 100 degrees. Not great football weather. On a day like that depth – especially on the offensive and defensive lines – will be an issue for both teams.
Kentucky is still in the process of breaking in a new, inexperienced quarterback. New, inexperienced quarterbacks from UK have not generally fared well at The Swamp in the past. Lest we forget in 2016 Drew Barker went into The Swamp as a new, inexperienced sophomore quarterback and left the game in the third quarter after going 2-10 on the day for 10 yards passing and 3 interceptions. The Gators rolled to a 45-7 win.
With all that being said UK’s football players — and fans for that matter — would be better served to concentrate on the most important factor that will determine if UK wins or loses this game. That factor is playing mistake-free football. No interceptions, no fumbles, no uncovered wide receivers, no personal foul penalties on third down that help continue drives for the Gators and no blocked punts or kickoff returns for touchdowns. Unfortunately this series has seen all of those – and more – in the past and that has helped to create the streak that needs to be forgotten.
Mistake-free football is just the ticket to get a win in Gainesville. Make no mistake Florida is very good but they are also very beatable. If – and it’s a big if – UK can eliminate mistakes and establish the running game they can beat the Gators on Saturday. But if the same quarterback play that showed up in The Swamp in 2016 shows up again on Saturday it will be guaranteed that Mark Stoops will be taking his 1-1 Wildcats back to Lexington having lost another good opportunity to beat the Florida Football Team.
So as your watching the game on Saturday focus on what this year’s team is doing. Forget about years past. Those games are gone. Those players are gone. In most cases those coaches are gone. The only thing that matters is how the players playing on Saturday perform. It’s a one act play and everyone needs to play their part to perfection. If not it’s another year off the calendar and another black eye for the UK Football Program.