After Kentucky gave up 45 points and 564 yards, after Kentucky’s offense completed just three passes and managed less than 150 yards, there was no other summation that made sense.
“We got our butts kicked,” Coach Mark Stoops said. “On offense and defense.”
There was no other summation after the game was over, after Kentucky lost its 30th straight game to Florida to continue the nation’s longest running losing streak, 45-7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
There was no other summation that made sense after Kentucky allowed the Gators to rack up their most yards against a Southeastern Conference since 2001.
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“We didn’t play very good, we didn’t play very smart,” Stoops continued. “We didn’t play very good in any way, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Unlike the previous two games with these two teams, which included a three-overtime thriller here and a 14-9 grind-it-out in Lexington, the 30th win looked more like the Coach Steve Spurrier years that included scores of 73-7, 65-0 and 42-7. Somewhere in the stadium that now partially bears his name, Spurrier had to be smiling.
Instead of the old Fun n’ Gun, Florida (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) added a dimension with fun and run and gun, managing 320 yards through the air and four touchdowns for new quarterback Luke Del Rio as part of that 564 total.
The transfer connected on 19 of his 32 attempts with touchdown passes to Antonio Callaway (78 yards), Lamical Perine (28 yards), Freddie Swain (26 yards) and Brandon Powell (5 yards).
Four different Gators running backs combined with Del Rio to rush for 244 yards against the Cats’ wilting defense, which allowed Florida to hit on 14 of its 20 third-down tries. UF punted just once in the win.
After his group gave up 79 straight points over two games, UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot pointed to third downs as the first of many problems to fix.
“I think the key is you got to get off the field on third down,” he said. “We defended I think 20 third downs this game, and I think we defended over 20 last game, too.
“So you have to have better third down conversion. We weren’t very good on third down. We have to cover better and we have to apply more pressure on third down.”
Once things started snowballing, it was hard for the Cats to recover.
“Sometimes when we’re down, a lot of people on our team seem to quit and think it’s over,” said linebacker Jordan Jones, who along with Blake McClain led UK with nine tackles. “As a whole team we need to work on fighting back and not giving up and realizing the game’s not really over until it’s over.”
Kentucky’s defense wasn’t the only one that has to regroup. From the first snap that saw Drew Barker get sacked for a big loss, the Cats’ offense struggled just as much.
“That’s not a way to get the thing started,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “I’ve got to get him a better drive starter.”
But Barker said it didn’t affect the rest of the game.
“You don’t really want to start off a game that way so it was a little shocking that’s how we start the game off,” said Barker, who completed just two passes and was picked off three times. “We’ve been practicing all week the first play we were gonna run. For that to happen was a little, I guess, disappointing.”
The Cats (0-2, 0-1) were outgained 564-149 and they connected on just three of their 14 pass attempts for 55 yards.
All but 10 of those came with 7:47 to go when backup quarterback Stephen Johnson found Jeff Badet for a 45-yard sideline pass and the Cats already were down by 45 points. It also was UK’s first completed pass since the second quarter.
It wasn’t until that completion that UK was able to even get over 100 yards of offense at all.
A few plays later, Jojo Kemp took the snap and ran it 2 yards for the Cats’ lone touchdown of the game, helping Stoops avoid the worst loss in his four-season tenure.
Kentucky’s best bet offensively was Boom Williams, who had 66 yards on 12 carries, but it wasn’t enough. And now the Cats start the season 0-2 with New Mexico State coming to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
Williams said: “Monday after we watch the film, we’re going to put this game behind us, which is going to be hard to do, but we’ve got to because we’ve got to move forward,” Williams said.
What does moving forward mean to Stoops?
A summation that has become familiar to Cats fans.
“Go back to work. Go back to work,” the Kentucky coach said. “There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. We’re in the arena. Time to go to work. That’s where we go.
“We go right back, we look at the film, we look at what we’re asking them to do, what we can do. The players need to look at themselves, the coaches need to look at things and see what we can execute. I know we can play better than that.”
New Mexico State at Kentucky
4 p.m. Saturday (SEC)