Date story was published: Sunday, September 10, 1995
Be competitive. That was the goal. After the disaster that was 1994 for Kentucky football, '95's first objective dealt not so much with wins or losses or a specific spot in the conference standings. It dealt with simply this: First and foremost, at the very least, the Cats had to be competitive.
But last night, facing the dreaded Florida Gators, the nation's fifth- ranked team, the very outfit that blew UK's lowly doors off in record- setting fashion a season ago, competitive the Cats were not. Instead, they were crushed. Again.
Third-string tailback Terry Jackson rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Danny Wuerffel found Chris Doering for two more scores as the Gators rolled to an easy 42-7 win at Commonwealth Stadium, extending UK's losing streak, now the nation's longest, to 12 straight games.
It wasn't an exact replay of last season when Steve Spurrier's club nuked the Cats 73-7 at The Swamp, but it was close enough.
"The story is very simple and repetitive," said UK Coach Bill Curry, now 0-9 versus the Gators. "We simply did not execute the things we needed to execute to have a chance against a team like we were playing. They took the game over and put us out of it in every conceivable way."
The visitors rolled up 33 first downs (four more than a year ago) and 584 total yards (two more than '94) in building a six-touchdown advantage before UK reserve quarterback Billy Jack Haskins hit Craig Yeast with a 30-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass for Kentucky's only score.
And with Ohio U. snapping its 12-game losing streak with a 14-6 win over Illinois State, UK's 12-game drought is now the longest in the land.
Florida, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 by winning its 14th straight game against an Eastern Division foe, and ninth straight over the Cats.
"We were certainly ready to play this one," said Spurrier, now 6-0 versus UK.
Wuerffel, a junior, completed 21 of 28 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in just a half and a series. He hit Doering with a 9-yard scoring pass on Florida's first possession, then found the senior with a 13-yard touchdown just 1:13 before halftime.
"You make one little error and it's a big one when you're playing Florida," UK corner Van Hiles said.
Jackson, a converted safety, entered the game behind Gator regulars Elijah Williams and Fred Taylor on the depth chart at tailback, but gained 93 yards on nine carries in the first half alone. He finished with 138 yards on 16 carries and scored on runs of 4, 8 and 6 yards, becoming the first Gator since Willie McClendon in 1990 to rush for three scores in a game.
"He was something else," Spurrier said. "We watched him run in the spring and he caught the ball well. We knew he was a natural running back."
Kentucky, meanwhile, could do little against a Florida defense that earned Spurrier's ire after struggling in the Gators' 45-21 season-opening win over Houston last week. The Cats managed just 157 yards through three quarters. Starting quarterback Jeff Speedy completed six of 21 passes for 40 yards with one interception.
"We must learn that there is a certain level at which we can play that allows us to compete with teams like this," Curry said. "But we haven't reached it in a long time."
They didn't come close last night. The Gators scored on four of their seven first-half possessions for a 28-0 lead. The visitors drove 85, 80 and 80 yards, plus blocked a punt to set up a 19-yard drive for another touchdown.
Oh, Kentucky had a couple of opportunities in the first half, but capitalized on neither. Steven Hall picked off a Wuerffel pass at the Florida 43 early in the second quarter. The Cats drove to the 14, but Speedy's pass to James Tucker in the end zone was tipped by Gator corner Fred Weary and intercepted by strong safety Lawrence Wright.
Then with 3:34 left in the half, Wuerffel dropped the ball while backing up to pass. UK end Chris Ward recovered at the Florida 49. But three plays later -- after two incompletions and a sack -- Kentucky punted.
"If we could have done something there I think we could have made it a ball game," Curry said. "You just have to take advantage of those. You just have to."
Not until Haskins entered with 11:34 left did the Cats take advantage of anything. The junior completed all five of his pass attempts for 82 yards, including the 30-yard toss that Yeast caught with a dive in the end zone with 6:33 left.
That led someone to point out afterward that the final margin was 21 points closer than a year ago.
"But I don't think when the score is like that," Curry said, "I certainly wouldn't be talking about improvement."