The second home game for the University of Florida football team started a lot differently than last week’s game, with early momentum becoming a huge factor in a 45-7 win over Kentucky. The 30th consecutive victory over the Wildcats extends the longest in-conference streak in SEC history.
Gator football Head Coach Jim McElwain says Florida came together as a unit today in order to reach a common team goal.
Florida’s first drive of the game ended with a 42-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide-left on kicker Eddy Pineiro, but they quickly made up for the slow start. The Gators’ first score came via an 84-yard drive that ate up 7:29 of the game clock. The 15-play march showcased a promising Gator offense, as they used 11 rushing plays to power past Kentucky. Gator running back Mark Thompson capped off the scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run to make the score 7-0 early.
Kentucky responded by attacking through the air, but Gator cornerback Quincy Wilson capitalized on a back shoulder jump ball down the sideline—using one hand to help snag an interception and stay in bounds.
McElwain used the change in momentum for all it was worth, testing Kentucky’s defense with a 78-yard play-action touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway, creating a two touchdown lead. McElwain says Florida’s play action was effective due to powerful runs by their running back carousel.
A short drive by Kentucky resulted in another punt to Florida, but Gator quarterback Luke Del Rio eventually threw his first interception of the season after missing wide out CJ Worton.
Following that second quarter turnover, Kentucky attempted a 34-yard field goal, but Austin MacGinnis’ kick bounced off the left upright. Pineiro then got a second attempt of his own, nailing a 54-yard field goal to extend Florida’s lead to 17.
Not to be outdone by Florida’s offense—cornerback Teez Tabor, fresh off a Week 1 suspension, made an aggressive jump on a quick screen to give Florida the ball again. The Gators put together a 58-yard drive, capped off by Brandon Powell’s five-yard touchdown reception to make the score 24-0.
Coach McElwain says Florida’s takeaways resulted from veteran leadership, explaining that Tabor made a big play because of his dedication to studying film.
By the end of the first half, Florida’s offense was 10-for-13 on third down conversions and Wildcat quarterback Drew Barker had completed two passes along with throwing two interceptions. Barker finished the game with a -31.6 passer rating.
Florida kept its momentum to start the second half, opening up a 31-0 lead after Marcus Maye’s interception led to a wide open 26-yard touchdown reception by freshman Gator receiver Freddie Swain. The next score also came after a turnover, as Kentucky backup quarterback Stephen Johnson fumbled which led to Gator tailback Jordan Scarlett’s four yard touchdown run that widened the gap to 38 unanswered points.
Florida’s offense was run heavy during the win, but those power rushes allowed Del Rio to capitalize on opportunities as he finished 19 of 32, for 320 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Del Rio credits his offensive line with the win, explaining that he wasn’t touched by a defender after the first quarter ended.
The score finished at 45-7 after Gator tailback Lamical Perine caught a 26-yard touchdown pass and Kentucky’s Jojo Kemp answered back with a two-yard touchdown run. Despite sharing touches with fellow tailbacks Thompson, Scarlett, and Cronkite, Perine set himself apart with 106 rushing yards on 17 carries, a 6.2 yards per rush average.
Looking forward to preparation against North Texas next week, McElwain says the Gators did their job well today, playing at an elevated level that should be considered standard. Florida is now 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play.