Here’s what Kash Daniel thinks makes this UK football team different
Flip through the Kentucky football media guide and see team photo after team photo.
Page after page of 100-plus players and coaches lined up side by side in rows year after year.
Sometimes they’re smiling, sometimes serious.
The name on the front of the jersey stays the same even as the faces change.
So many pages had to turn before one of those teams was able to say it ended a 31-year losing streak to Florida.
That was this Kentucky team.
It came into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night and walked away with something — a convincing 27-16 victory over the No. 25 Gators — that so many of those faces on all of those pages had been unable to earn since 1986.
“This team is different,” said junior running back Benny Snell, who had 175 of the 303 rushing yards for Kentucky against Florida. “This fight is different. This finish is different.”
And what a finish it was.
Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) had to bounce back from two turnovers inside the Florida 35-yard line in the second quarter and found itself trailing 10-7 at the break.
Both times it was new quarterback Terry Wilson with the miscues, first a fumble after his 2-yard run and then a picked off pass near the Florida end zone.
Despite those mistakes, Cats coaches put him back in the game to start the third quarter and he made magic happen.
“Did you see him? Did you see what he was doing? The pocket was collapsing, he was running,” Snell said of Wilson, making his first road start in the conference in front of 80,651 at The Swamp.
“He was running like 20 yards and it was supposed to be a sack. Man, Terry is so great. He makes this offense so much more deadlier.”
First, Wilson guided the UK offense 90 yards down the field and gave the Cats a 14-10 lead with a 24-yard touchdown scamper.
Then Wilson extended the lead 21-10 with a beautiful, 54-yard pass to Lynn Bowden, his first career touchdown in a UK uniform.
The unlikely bomb came on a third-and-16. Third down had been good to UK this game already with the Cats connecting on eight of their first nine third-down tries.
“I thought he overthrew me,” said Bowden, who led all UK receivers with four catches for 79 yards and the score. “I remembered I was fast, though. Ran under it, hit my knees, prayed to God.”
Bowden nodded in agreement when told of Snell’s “this team is different” comment.
“We’ve got a different mindset,” Bowden said. “We’re putting our foot on the pedal. We’re not giving up. All gas, no brakes.”
That seemed to be Wilson’s mantra all night. The quarterback connected on 11 of his 16 pass attempts for 151 yards and ran it for 105 more.
“I don’t have any words for it,” Wilson said. “It’s just been a long journey to get here. This is the stuff I dreamed about as a kid. It’s just awesome to get a big win on the road.”
Wilson was part of an offensive attack that overwhelmed the Gators. The Cats had 454 yards and held Florida to 360 yards. UK averaged 7.4 yards per rush and eight yards per play in the victory.
The Kentucky defense held the Gators to 4.4 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per play.
“We just knew coming into this game if we go out and do our job we can play with anybody,” said junior linebacker Kash Daniel, who led UK in tackles for the second straight game with 11.
Safety Darius West added eight tackles to go with a key interception late in the game to end a Florida drive. Fellow seniors Mike Edwards and Jordan Jones added six tackles apiece.
Daniel, a Paintsville native, agreed with Snell that there’s something different about this group of Cats.
“In all capital letters GRIT,” he said. “Just straight up grit. Line up play after play, get after somebody’s ass and let’s get going.”
Leading 21-10 with four minutes to go in the third quarter, Daniel and the defense had to withstand an aggressive counterpunch from the Gators (1-1, 0-1).
After a Max Duffy punt pinned them at their own 1-yard line, Florida marched it 99 yards down the field to cut it to five points, 21-16, with 3:34 to play.
On Florida’s next possession with just seconds left in the game, former Henry Clay standout Davonte Robinson scooped up a fumble and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown as the clock expired.
That’s when the fun started for this group of Cats.
There was Snell wiping away tears of joy after being serenaded by joyful screams from fans lining the tunnel to the locker room.
There was senior cornerback Derrick Baity, a Florida native, waving a massive Kentucky flag around the stadium where UK hadn’t won a game since 1979.
There was a Gatorade-coated Coach Mark Stoops bear-hugging everyone near him wearing blue.
“I’m just very, very, very, very happy for our team,” Stoops said afterward. “Truly a team victory.”
It was a team victory for all of those teams that had come up short against Florida for so many years in a row.
“You’ve heard me talk about knocking down doors,” Stoops continued. “Well, this is a big one to knock down this door. We did it the right way by being a good, hard-nosed, tough football team.”