By Ricky Blair – Lexington, KY – For the twenty-ninth straight year, the Kentucky football team walked off the field, after the game against the Florida Gators, sporting a loss. This year was supposed to be different. In the past, most of the contests were not even close. Kentucky has had few opportunities over the last three decades to pull off an upset.
Florida has usually just been a lot better. But this year, that was not the case. The Wildcats, even in talent with this Florida team, had home field advantage and also had a belief, based on last year’s three overtime loss, that they could and should beat Florida. Despite all these factors, Kentucky still found a way to lose to the Gators in a close, yet heartbreaking, game. Final score – Florida 14, Kentucky 9.
With Commonwealth Stadium rocking, Kentucky got off to the kind of start that might lead to a victory. The Wildcats held Florida on the first series and forced a punt. The Cats then marched into Florida territory where possibly, the most critical play of the game happened. Quarterback Patrick Towles, on first down and ten, found wide receiver Dorian Baker in the end zone from 41 yards out. But Baker, after making a good play to get freed up from the defender, dropped the ball. Opportunity and possibly game lost. Two plays later, the drop became an even bigger factor. A high pass by Towles bounced off Baker’s hands and was intercepted by Florida’s all-American defensive back, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves returned the interception 53 yards and set up Florida’s first touchdown. Momentum lost and the Wildcats could never recover, even though Florida struggled throughout the game.
It was not all bad news, however. Kentucky’s defense played well for a second straight week, holding the Gators to only 245 total yards and no points in the second half. Linebackers Khalid Henderson and Josh Forrest led the Wildcats in tackles with 9 and 8 respectively. Cornerback J.D. Harmon made an interception in the end zone that stopped a Florida scoring opportunity.
The defense did their part. It is now up to the offense to live up to their part of the bargain.
From all signs, the Wildcats will have to go back to the drawing board this week to prepare for their next SEC opponent. They have a beatable Missouri team coming to Commonwealth on Saturday, September 26 and must move on if they are to have a break out season and return to a bowl game.
For now, unfortunately, the streak lives on.