The measly nine first downs, the 149 total yards of offense, the 14 third-down conversions Kentucky’s defense allowed and every single one of Florida’s 28 points off turnovers.
All of those came in Kentucky’s 45-7 loss at Florida last season.
And all of those have played on screens over and over again this week at the Kentucky football practice facility courtesy of UK Director of Performance Corey Edmond.
“I’m sure he wants (to offer) a little reminder,” Coach Mark Stoops said of Edmond, who did the same thing before Kentucky’s rematch with Southern Miss in the opener. “I was up there, I was actually working out a little bit and I was kind of pissed off watching it every day.”
While 60,000-plus fans file into Kroger Field on Saturday in hopes of seeing a 30-year losing streak end to Florida, many of UK’s players and coaches will still be thinking about last season when things came undone at The Swamp.
“It’s come a long way,” Stoops said this week of his program since then. Since that loss, Kentucky has gone 10-4, including 3-0 this season. “I don’t think there’s any denying that. Our players with each and every opportunity if you go back and look at that past — which we don’t often do — it’s fair to say that we’ve come a long way.”
This could be the game that shows Kentucky how far it has come or how far it still has to go to become a Southeastern Conference East Division contender.
The Cats (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are facing a Florida team that has questions of its own to answer after sputters and stalls offensively and a team that is still trying to fill holes left by nine players suspended while a university fraud investigation continues.
When a reporter suggested this week that the Gators (1-1, 1-0) seemed less scary than in previous seasons, Stoops scoffed.
“But again, like always, it’s really about us and our preparation and how we play,” Stoops then said. “Our team heard that all last week: All we need to be is the best version of ourselves. We need to worry about us and how good we can play.”
Settling in for a battle
After a shaky start, Kentucky’s offensive line is starting to feel much better about itself, which is good news with Florida coming to town.
“We settled down a little bit in terms of rotation,” offensive line coach John Schlarman said. “That continuity helped us and the guys played. They played. They went down there with the right mindset.”
Last week in the win at South Carolina, Landon Young and Logan Stenberg played every snap together on the left side. Kyle Meadows and George Asafo-Adjei rotated and 6-foot-6, 310-pounder Mason Wolfe was added to the mix.
The former Henderson County standout played 52 snaps and was in on UK’s longest scoring drives.
“He competed, didn’t miss any assignments, played really physical,” Schlarman said of Wolfe. “He’s a big body to bang in there.”
It could be a more difficult challenge against Florida, which is eighth in the league in sacks and third in tackles for loss per game with eight (through two games). Last season against UK, the Gators had five sacks and eight tackles for loss.
“Those guys can all run,” Schlarman said. “They always have been able to run. They have a great pass rush. … They can get after the quarterback and they play the run well, too. They penetrate. They get up the field.”
It’s unlikely fans will learn in advance which fancy uniform combination Kentucky plans to pull out of the closet for the Florida game, but Stoops confirmed that whatever it is will be topped with some shiny bling.
“A night game, we thought the chrome would look nice,” the head coach said of the shimmering silvery helmets the players have been practicing in all week in preparation for the Gators.
So how do the Cats choose their uniforms for the week? It depends on the week.
Often, Stoops and staff run ideas by a committee of 15 leaders, who make the determination. Sometimes it works the other way around.
“The players wanted to wear all white last week, so we wore all white,” he said of the monochromatic look at South Carolina. “Sometimes we give them that option, yeah. I don’t put a whole heck of a lot of thought into it, to be honest with you.”
The person who does appear to put a lot of thought into it is Dan Berezowitz, UK’s director of recruiting operations.
“Brez brings me options,” Stoops said, then joked with a sly smile: ”Usually Brez thinks he’s the general manager as well so he usually comes and shows me a nice photo and says ‘What do you think?’ I either give him a thumbs up or thumbs down.”
Once the decisions are made, they’re passed along to Tom Kalinowski, who is in the middle of his 40th season as Kentucky’s equipment manager.
In interviews for a story about his extended tenure with UK, Kalinowski said he doesn’t mind outrageous combinations that sometimes diverge from straight blue and white.
“I kind of like the wild stuff to be honest,” he said with a grin. “I’m going with the times. Change is good. I’m an old stickler on some things, but I really like the variations.”
If the streak ends on Saturday night, 30 years of frustration has to be released somehow. Seems likely that it would spill over into huge celebrations on the turf at Kroger Field.
It would be Kentucky’s third field storming event (Tennessee in 2011 and South Carolina in 2014), which means there would be a hefty price tag in the form of a $250,000 fine payable to the Southeastern Conference.
The storming the court/field rule charges first-time offenders $50,000, then $100,000 for a second offense. All subsequent stormings cost $250,000.
▪ The Cats’ secondary is well aware of what happened last week on the Hail Mary where Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks found receiver Tyrie Cleveland on a 63-yard heave to top Tennessee 26-20.
“That just can’t be us,” junior cornerback Derrick Baity said he thought while watching the play this week. “You know what’s going to happen on the last play. They’re thinking of going into overtime, but you’ve got to keep everything in front of you. Especially our secondary, we don’t want that to be us.”
It’s a situational play that Kentucky works on every week, coaches and players said.
▪ Kentucky’s defense again will be without star linebacker Jordan Jones, who injured his shoulder against Eastern Kentucky. In his place again will be Eli Brown with Jamar “Boogie” Watson as his backup.
2017 UK football schedule
Home games in capital letters. Times are p.m.
Sept. 2: at Southern Miss (W, 24-17)
Sept. 9: EASTERN KENTUCKY (W, 27-16)
Sept. 16: at South Carolina (W, 23-13)
Sept. 23: FLORIDA, 7:30 (SEC)
Sept. 30: EASTERN MICHIGAN, 4 (SEC)
Oct. 7: MISSOURI
Oct. 21: at Mississippi St.
Oct. 28: TENNESSEE
Nov. 4: OLE MISS
Nov. 11: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 18: at Georgia
Nov. 25: LOUISVILLE