Florida wins 27th in a row over Kentucky, 24-7

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 28, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

There was no Commonwealth Stadium magic to end this streak.

Not this night. Not this time.

There was no wide receiver stepping in at quarterback, no trick play long or crafty enough.

There was just a dominant Florida defense that held UK to a season-low 173 yards of offense and a Gators' offense that ran efficiently enough despite a new quarterback to top Kentucky 24-7 on Saturday night in front of 62,076.

"They really controlled both lines of scrimmage the entire game," Coach Mark Stoops said of the No. 20 Gators, who extended their dominance over UK to 27 straight games. "Very physical team. Right from the opening drive, they kind of set the tone for what the night was going to be like."

The night was going to be long for the UK defense, which allowed the Gators to roll up 402 yards, including 176 yards and a touchdown for running back Matt Jones, who had more yardage than the Cats' offense.

The night was going to be long for the UK defense as redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, making his first career start, looked as comfortable as he might have in a Barcalounger in his own living room, completing his first 13 throws and finishing 15-for-18 for 156 yards and a touchdown.

"He's a very cerebral kid and he's very smart; he gets the game," Florida Coach Will Muschamp said. "Really made good decisions as much as anything, (not only) throwing the ball but in the run game."

Murphy ran seven times for 36 yards and another score, a 5-yard scamper that gave the Gators a 21-7 lead at halftime.

Florida (3-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) held the ball 16 minutes longer than Kentucky.

And eventually, UK's defense got tired.

"We couldn't stop the run," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "We got them in some third-down situations and didn't convert. If we could have stopped them from converting some of those third downs, it could've gone a different way."

Kentucky's offense took its share of the blame for a defense that was depleted by the end.

"It is frustrating because we've got to convert third downs and help our defense out, keep those guys off the field," running back Raymond Sanders said of UK's offense, which went 1-for-8 on third downs after going 0-for-13 against Louisville in its previous game. "Those guys played their hearts out and we've got to help keep them off the field. We have play-makers; we've got to be able to make plays."

Who knew UK's biggest play-maker would turn out to be its place-kicker?

Senior Joe Mansour scored the Cats' lone touchdown on a fake field goal that he ran in from 25 yards out. That one play made Mansour UK's leading rusher on the night. The Cats' next-best runner was Jojo Kemp, who took his three carries 19 total yards. In all, Kentucky managed 48 yards on the ground.

On Mansour's scoring drive, UK managed 75 yards, but got just 98 yards the rest of the game.

"We had a few opportunities to make it a game and we didn't make them," Stoops said. "Felt like we had a few opportunities here and there, just didn't capitalize on the plays."

Mansour's fake field goal run, which UK had been preparing to use against the Gators all week, gave the team momentum and tied the game 7-7 after Florida drove nearly the length of the field and scored first on Jones' 2-yard run.

After that opening score, the Cats managed just 49 yards the rest of the half and their third-down struggles continued.

"It's frustrating," quarterback Jalen Whitlow said. "Any time you lose is frustrating, any time you can't put points on the board. That's a great defense over there, so there's a reason why they're No. 1 in pretty much every statistic on the defensive side of the ball."

After Murphy ran in his touchdown 2:53 before halftime, UK had a chance to respond and did early in the drive, getting a quick 5-yard run from Sanders and a 21-yard pass from Maxwell Smith to Alexander Montgomery down the middle, but the Cats were stuffed again on third down with Dyshawn Mobley getting nowhere on a third-and-4.

After a timeout, Smith overthrew Ryan Timmons on the left side to end the drive.

Kentucky got the ball first to open the second half, and managed to get third-and-short before an ill-conceived end-around with Timmons ended the drive.

On Florida's next possession, Josh Forrest, who barely had his name on the depth chart to open the season but had played his way into time at linebacker, intercepted a Murphy pass and took it 39 yards to the Gators' 37-yard line.

That was Kentucky's first interception of the season after having only five all of last season. The Cats' most recent previous interceptions came on Oct. 27, when J.D. Harmon made two at Missouri.

UK got in striking distance, but Smith's 21-yard pass intended for Javess Blue in the end zone was picked off by Florida's Vernon Hargreaves.

The score remained 21-7 after three quarters. The Cats were held to just 10 yards of offense in the period and still have not scored in a third quarter this season.

It was a frustrating night for all involved, but especially for UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown, whose goal is to run 75 plays for 20 first downs in his up-tempo style.

On Saturday night, it was 47 plays for 12 first downs. But he was trying to look forward, not back.

"I'm not discouraged," Brown said. "I knew this was going to be a lengthy process."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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