The Florida Gator football team escapes The Swamp on Saturday night with a 36-30 triple overtime victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.
It was Matt Jones’ one yard touchdown in the third overtime that sealed the win for the Gators. Although the streak was very close to being broken, Florida extended its win streak over Kentucky to 28 straight games dating back to 1986. It was also Florida’s first triple overtime game in school history.
To say the first half was ugly would be an understatement. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was an abysmal 7 of 20 for 161 yards in the first half, but recovered to finish 25-of-43 for 295 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, he threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter after pressure forced him to make an ill-advised throw. Driskel overthrew Quinton Dunbar on two occasions in the first half on long passes as both offenses struggled in a 3-3 game at halftime.
Then in the third quarter, the back and forth scoring ensued between the Gators and the Wildcats. Both teams combined to score 31 points in the quarter. Florida kicker Frankie Velez started the scoring early in the quarter when he hit a 22-yard field goal to give the Gators a 6-3 lead. Then a few minutes later, Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles (24-of-45, 369 yards, 3 INT) connected with wide receiver Garrett Johnson on a 60 yard touchdown to give the Cats a 10-6 lead. The Gators answered on the next drive, thanks to a bit of good fortune. Driskel threw what looked like a sure interception to Kentucky’s Fred Tiller, but it ricocheted off his chest and landed in the hands of Demarcus Robinson, who ran for a 33-yard gain to the Kentucky 10. On the very next play, Driskel found tight end Tevin Westbrook for his first career touchdown reception to give the Gators a 13-10 advantage with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky wouldn’t be down for long, thanks to a busted coverage by the Florida inexperienced secondary. On the Cats ensuing drive, Towles found Johnson again on a 33-yard TD pass, this time wide open as he ran in virtually untouched to regain the lead for Kentucky 17-13.
“We just have to tie some things up in the secondary,” Muschamp said. “They had six big plays for 173 yards. And when you play a team that’s going to be willing to throw the ball vertically that much, there’s going to be some 50-50 balls. We need to play the ball better.”
The Gators responded yet again. It was Demarcus Robinson who came up big with a couple of clutch receptions before hauling in a nine yard touchdown pass to put Florida back on top 20-17 with 25 seconds to go in the quarter. Robinson finished with 15 receptions for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He tied Carlos Alvarez’s school record for catches in a single game and became the first Florida player with consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Jabar Gaffney in 2001. Running back Matt Jones spoke about Robinson’s huge performance.
“He’s a great team player. He stepped up and made some big plays. He had a great week in practice, it was just great for him. I love the guy and I’m just glad he’s here and makes plays.”
In the fourth quarter, the Gators had a chance to extend their three point lead to six, but Frankie Velez missed a 39-yard field goal attempt that forced Florida to cling to their three point lead. Kentucky would tie it at 20 with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter on a 12-play drive that ended with a 51-yard field goal by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis.
Later in the quarter, Kentucky was pinned deep inside their own territory, but Patrick Towles led the Cats down the field, until Keanu Neal picked off Towles with 28 seconds left in the game that sent The Swamp into a frenzy. Driskel led the offense down to the UK 34 to set up Austin Hardin for a potential game-winning 52-yard field goal, but he missed it wide right to send the game into OT.
On the first play of the opening overtime, Kentucky’s Stanley Williams caught a pass in the flat on the right side of the field, but reversed field, and made several men miss as he scored to give UK the 27-20 lead.
But the Gators weren’t done as an arguable play of the game was still yet to come. Florida converted on a huge game-saving fourth down play. No conversion, game over. As the play clock appeared to be at zero, Driskel got the ball snapped and then lofted it to the back left corner of the end zone to find Demarcus Robinson for a touchdown to even up the score at 27 a piece.
In the second overtime, both Velez and MacGinnis traded field goals to make it 30-30, forcing a third overtime. To start the third OT, MacGinnis missed on a 41-yard attempt, which meant all the Gators had to do was score a field goal or touchdown to win the game. The Orange and Blue didn’t settle for the field goal to end it. Instead, they let running back Matt Jones pound his way into the end zone to seal the 36-30 win for the Gators. Jones finished with 29 carries for 156 yards, marking his second career game of over 100 yards rushing. Tight end Tevin Westbrook said Jones is a special player.
“He’s an incredible player. He comes out and works hard. Just to be able to block for him and know that he’s going to get as much as he can every time. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Gators faced an early season scare from Kentucky in their SEC opener, but left tackle Chaz Green thinks it was a good test for the team.
“That’s what I think was so great about the victory. It was good that we faced a game like this early in the season, it’s good for our team. And I think it shows that we’re willing and ready to respond to any situation.”
Now, the Gators will face an even bigger test as they head to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in an SEC showdown next Saturday at 3:30.
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