No. 1 Florida flattens Kentucky 41-7

No chance for Cats after Tebow leads 31-0 first quarter

ccosby@herald-leader.comSeptember 27, 2009 

It's hard enough to man up and try to take down the Florida Gators.

And when you come out of the gate with a bunch of self-inflicted wounds, things can get out of control in a hurry.

Kentucky found that out for the second year in a row on Saturday night.

Last season, it was two early blocked punts that led to two quick scores and a 14-0 lead that resulted in a 63-5 blowout. This time it was a complete systems breakdown. The UK offense committed two penalties before even taking its first snap.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and three other starters had to take a separate flight due to respiratory illness, but the way Tebow and Co. marched up and down the field, it was the Wildcats' defense that looked as though it had the swine flu.

And for good measure, the Gators blocked another punt, this time for a touchdown.

All of that led to a 31-0 Florida lead at the end of the first quarter, and the final three quarters proved to be a formality as the No. 1 Gators coasted to an easy 41-7 win.

The Wildcats committed eight of their nine penalties in the first half and didn't pick up a first down until the 8:48 mark of the second quarter, drawing mock cheers from the Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 71,011.

"I am very frustrated," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "I am embarrassed by the way we played. I felt like I had never coached a down in my life the way we came out in that first 15 minutes at home. It's embarrassing to me because I think we are a little bit beyond starting out a game like that. I didn't do a very good job preparing my football team to meet that challenge out of the gate."

Tebow, who finished with 123 yards on 16 carries for two touchdowns while going 5-for-10 passing for 103 yards and another TD, ripped off a 30-yard run to the Kentucky 36 on the game's opening drive, but the Cats forced the Gators to settle for a 22-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal. But on UK's first two plays from scrimmage, the Cats were whistled for an illegal procedure and a false start and, on the next play, Mike Hartline was sacked just outside the goal line.

The UK offense was penalized for false starts, holding, not having enough men on the line of scrimmage, you name it. Confusion also led to wasting two early timeouts.

Head coach for offense Joker Phillips and defensive coordinator Steve Brown all echoed the same sentiment as Brooks after the game, taking responsibility for a lack of preparation.

"How hard is it to line up on the ball?" Phillips said. "That's just a lack of coaching on my part. I've got to do a better job."

"I thought our guys were fighting, but it just wasn't good enough," Brown said. "I'm upset with myself. We've got guys who can do the job. We've just got to change our approach. We have to get better."

Tebow added a 3-yard TD run to make it 10-0 with 7:11 left in the first quarter, and things got progressively worse. UK had another three-and-out and, after a motion penalty negated a Ryan Tyd lacka punt, Chris Rainey broke through and blocked his next attempt and fell on it in the end zone for a score to give the Gators a 17-0 lead at 6:04.

"They basically did what they did to us last year," Brooks said. "They loaded up the middle, and we allowed somebody to pop through and, again, point the finger at me because we shouldn't have allowed that to happen after having two of them blocked last year."

It was a statement game for Florida, who labored through a ho-hum 23-13 win over Tennessee that was followed up by a rash of flu-like symptoms floating through the locker room. The Gators, who have now won 14 straight games, have an open date before an Oct. 10 trip to Louisiana State.

"When we got the hand on the punt, that really deflated the stadium," Florida Coach Urban Meyer said. "I thought our guys came out really charged up and played really hard, and that was after a difficult week."

Florida kept pouring it on. Tebow added another short TD run and then play-faked and found Aaron Hernandez over the middle for a 44-yard hookup on the last play of the first quarter to put the lead at 31-0.

The first-quarter numbers were ugly. Florida had 223 yards of offense, and the Cats had minus-1. And UK was penalized five times for 32 yards. Kentucky did manage to get on the scoreboard late in the second quarter when Hartline play-faked on fourth-and-goal and found Ross Bogue wide open in the back of the end zone at 2:44.

But that was about it for the Cats because most of the other positive plays were wiped out by penalties.

"When you play a highly ranked team, sometimes those flags fall at the most inopportune times," Brooks said. "We had more penalties in this game then we have, usually, in three games."

"I felt like we shot ourselves in the foot in the first few minutes of the game," senior linebacker Micah Johnson said. "We didn't even give ourselves a chance. You can't make mistakes like that or you don't win."

Tebow was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after being sacked by Taylor Wyndham and hitting his head on one of Marcus Gilbert's knee on the way down. But the outcome had been long decided by then. UK must now regroup and get ready for a visit from No. 3 Alabama. But on this night, the Cats certainly didn't appear ready for prime time.

"We wanted to show everybody that we could play in this league, and we didn't show that," Phillips said. "... We're still in the race, but we showed we haven't come real far."

Wilson reinstated

Freshman linebacker Ridge Wilson has been reinstated to the Kentucky football team, Coach Rich Brooks announced before the Kentucky-Florida game. Wilson had been suspended indefinitely after being charged with fourth-degree assault after allegedly hitting a girl in the face earlier this month. Wilson did not play against Florida.

"Ridge Wilson has been reinstated to full status with the University of Kentucky football program," Brooks said in a statement released by UK. "Situations like this are totally unacceptable on our football team but, at the same time, this is the first incident of any negative nature he has had while on campus since last summer.

"He will be given counseling as well as the understanding that any transgression in the future will be met with dismissal from the football team. We are in the process of trying to take young men from teenagers to responsible adults, and I take that task very seriously. We understand there will be ongoing legal deliberations in this case, as well as pending University student conduct discussions. We expect to comply fully with all of their findings. There will be no further comment until all the legal issues are resolved."

Warford hurt

Junior cornerback Paul Warford suffered what Brooks diagnosed as either a pulled or torn quadriceps muscle early in the first quarter and did not return.

■ Lones Seiber tied the UK career scoring record with an extra point in the second quarter. Seiber now has 246 career points, the same with former kicker Joey Worley.

■ Senior linebacker Micah Johnson had nine tackles and went over the 200 mark for his career. Johnson now has 205 career stops.

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