Coaches on both the Florida and Kentucky sidelines clearly had their talking points about the upcoming game and the ever-present streak of 31 straight victories for the Gators ready.
But that memo apparently wasn’t passed along to the Gators’ players.
When asked about UK’s 31 straight games of futility against Florida, defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson asked: “It’s 31, right?”
And then added: “It’ll be 32 after Saturday.”
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That would be this coming Saturday when the Cats travel to The Swamp, a place they haven’t won at since 1979. UK’s last victory over Florida came in 1986.
The junior had four tackles in last year’s close call in Lexington where the Gators walked away with a 28-27 victory thanks in part to some defensive miscues by Kentucky and a holding call late on what could have been a game-winning touchdown run.
Gardner-Johnson acknowledged that UK has some good players.
“They’re coming in with a chip on their shoulder that they can beat us,” he said. “It’s going to be in The Swamp. So, at the end of the day, our team though is capable, and we know what’s going to happen Saturday.”
It was quite a different message than the one that came from head coach Dan Mullen.
“I don’t know what that has to do with the game this week,” said Mullen, who also has a run of wins against Kentucky, going 8-1 versus the Cats as the head coach at Mississippi State.
“Our guys didn’t have a whole lot to do with that and neither did the guys on their team. … I don’t think that has any effect on this week’s game. It’s two good teams going out to go play each other.”
The nature of sports, Mullen said he knows that “some day, the streak will be broken,” and then added, “I don’t want to be the one who does it.”
But he said Florida’s focus should be on winning its Southeastern Conference opener after a dominant 53-6 victory over Charleston Southern last week.
“That’s got to be the whole focus and not worry about anything else,” Mullen said. “I try not to think about it in those terms because it really has no effect on us winning or losing the game this year.”
Kentucky’s players and coach talked about the streak at length during SEC Media Days in July, but it can’t be the only focus for this game, Mark Stoops said on Monday.
“These guys cannot worry about 30-some years and all that,” he said. “They really can’t. Winning is important to our team each and every week, and that’s the approach we’ll have.”
In a few weeks when Stoops is back at the podium previewing the South Carolina game, in which the Cats own a four-game win streak, the head coach said he’ll have the same message.
“I’m going to say that means absolutely nothing to me, last year,” he said. “So why in the reverse should it really matter? It’s about what we do this year, how we play, how we prepare, are we making plays at the right times and those things.”
If the Gators get the victory as predicted by Gardner-Johnson, it will tie for third-place for the longest win streak over a single opponent in NCAA history. With 31 straight victories, Florida is tied with Penn State, which had that many in a row over Temple until 2015.
Oklahoma had 32 straight wins over Kansas from 1937 through 1968. Notre Dame owns the longest streak with 43 in a row over Navy from 1964 through 2006.