Date story was published: Sunday, September 26, 1999
Same old story, same old song and dance.
The Gators are good, too good.
For the 13th straight year, third-ranked Florida had its way with Kentucky last night, jumping to a four-touchdown lead in the second quarter then cruising to a 38-10 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
Fresh off its emotional win over Tennessee last week, Steve Spurrier's club kicked it into gear in the second quarter, scoring 21 points to build an insurmountable four-touchdown lead.
Quarterback Doug Johnson threw for two first-half scores and backup tailback Robert Gillespie, pressed into action by an early injury, gained a career-high 108 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Gators ran their record to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.
Meanwhile, the young but talented Florida defense held Kentucky to its lowest point total since Hal Mumme became head coach 27 games ago. It was also the first time in the Mumme Era that the Cats failed to throw a touchdown pass, UK's lone TD coming on a 5-yard Derek Homer run.
"They just have good athletes," said Mumme, whose team dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference. "They played soft zone most of the night. We had some chances to score but we didn't take advantage of them. It should have been a closer game than it was. I'm disappointed in the offense."
Quarterback Dusty Bonner completed 36 of 48 passes for 254 yards, but no UK completion was longer than 22 yards. Tight end James Whalen caught a career-high 12 passes, but for just 85 yards. Florida outgained the Cats 476-317.
"They were giving us the underneath stuff," said Bonner, who had thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his first three starts. "But they've got such great speed on defense when you would go underneath they'd get to you in a hurry."
"They'd drop and give you the underneath pass," said Dougie Allen, who made eight catches, but for just 49 yards, "and as soon as you caught the ball, they'd be right on you."
Meanwhile, starting with the second quarter, Steve Spurrier's offense was right on. Never mind that the Gators came to town without star wide receiver Travis Taylor, out with a high ankle sprain. And never mind that their best running back, Earnest Graham, left the game after just 46 seconds with a thigh bruise.
"Their No. 1 guy goes out and they just bring in No. 2 and No. 3 and No. 4," said UK defensive coordinator Mike Major. "After that, I stopped counting."
Gillespie got his 108 yards on just 12 carries. Speedster Bo Carroll gained 86 yards and one touchdown on just 13 carries. The Fun 'n' Gun Gators averaged 6.8 yards per rushing attempt.
"We've got to do better against the run," Major said. "Their No. 1 guy goes out, and we didn't tackle very well. How fast those guys are make you miss a lot."
The Gators punted three of their first four possessions, the exception being a five-play 72-yard first-quarter drive, aided by a 47-yard Johnson to Gillespie catch-and-run, that ended with Bo Carroll scoring from 14 yards out.
Second quarter, however, the Gators took control. When UK corner Eric Kelly bit on a play-fake, Darrell Jackson got past the Cat defense to haul in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to make it 14-0.
"If Kentucky's offense had been going - scored two of their first five - we'd have been in a ball game," Spurrier said. "When we hit that long pass, we sort of got in our comfort zone."
The defense helped. Gator corner Bennie Alexander intercepted a Dusty Bonner pass and returned it 18 yards to the UK 29-yard line. It took Florida four plays to score. A 22-yard Gillespie run took the ball to the nine-yard line. Two plays later, Gillespie scored from the 3, making it 21-0.
Next possession, Florida went 65 yards in eight plays. Three covered 10 or more yards, including a 15-yard run by Gillespie to the 7. Johnson hit Brian Haugabrook on a perfect fade pass, aided by a nice catch, to make it 28-0 with 4:33 left before the half.
Kentucky finally scored 1:24 before the half on Homer's run. Marc Samuels added a field goal early in the third quarter. Then down 31-10, the Cats drove to the Gator 14-yard line before Homer lost a fumble.
"We made a lot of mistakes because we're young," said running back Anthony White, who after back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts, was held to just 12 yards on five carries. "Our defense did a great job, but we had a lot to be disappointed with offensively."
"I thought the defense played well enough for us to win," Bonner said. "But the offense didn't play well enough for us to win."
Then again, against Florida, Kentucky has not won since 1986.
"When we were at Valdosta, it took us five years to beat North Alabama," said Mumme of the power in the Division II's Gulf South Conference. "They were a great program that was ahead of us athletically. I look at it the same way with Florida."