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NOT AGAIN!!! Gators take advantage of crucial UK mistakes to rally for 28-27 win

Garrett Johnson had a first-half touchdown catch. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

The last time Kentucky had defeated Florida was so long ago that you could buy a postage stamp, dozen eggs, loaf of bread and gallon of regular gasoline for less than $4.

The most popular movies back in 1986 were Top Gun and Crocodile Dundee. The top three TV shows were Magnum, P.I.; Dynasty; and Falcon Crest.

Well, save those historical references for another year because once again Florida beat Kentucky. This time it was in GUT-WRENCHING FASHION for UK that the Gators overcame a 27-14 deficit going into the fourth quarter to win 28-27.

“It was a very heartbreaking loss for our team,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “There are quite a few plays in games and you never know which one will decide a game. It is very disappointing that we didn’t come up with those plays. The breakdown in communication on the two (scoring) plays are really a sore spot. Our team played winning football. We have to get those things fixed and I accept responsibility for those.”

Just think about this. Twice Kentucky left a Florida receiver completely uncovered after a Florida timeout and gave up a touchdown pass. Two other times Kentucky defenders had chance to make open field tackles to stop a drive and failed. And with UK moving into position for a possible game-winning field goal in the closing seconds, the UK senior Nick Haynes was called for a hold 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he did not see the play but was running the ball to position Austin MacGinnis for a game-winning field goal.

“I asked the ref who it was on and he wouldn’t even tell me,” Haynes said. “I had already pancaked the guy. I felt the flag when Benny was 5-6 yards ahead of me. I didn’t think I was holding. I can’t wait to see it (on video). That’s all I can say.

“It is heartbreaking. To lose on a BS (bullshit) call, that sucks. I definitely did not see it coming.”

It was an electric atmosphere hours before kickoff and the Wildcats did not disappoint, especially quarterback Stephen “All I Do Is Win” Johnson. He threw perfect touchdown passes in the first quarter to Blake Bone and second quarter to Garrett Johnson.

Mark Stoops thanked UK fans for their support Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

“I thank the fans. They gave us great support,” Stoops said. “It was a great atmosphere. I would like to see it every week but up to us. If players leave on the field and play with that desire and passion, we will have a great fan base like that every week.”

Old Kentucky didn’t go away easily.

Holding a 14-7 lead and with Florida facing a fourth down and three at the UK 45-yard line, the Gators called timeout and decided to go for the first down. Florida receiver Tyrie Cleveland ran to the end of the formation near the UK sideline and no UK defender went with him. He waved for the ball. No UK player reaction and the UK coaches watched rather than call one of three timeouts the Cats had. Quarterback Feleipe Franks got the ball to him and Cleveland just got to the end zone to tie the game.

Stoops said in a halftime interview that UK got fooled when Florida showed an unbalanced line. Not sure how that fooled 11 staff members in the press box that could see the field or Stoops, other coaches and UK players on the field and sideline. It was just a big-time mistake.

“I should have called a timeout. I was looking at the set. I was looking at the formation by the time we realized nobody on him, I tried to call timeout and was fractions off,” Stoops said.

Linebacker Josh Allen said he didn’t see Cleveland.

“It was just bad communication,” Allen said. “We gave them the majority of their points. We just have to keep grinding, but this hurts. It hurt seeing that guy so open. I was just praying for him to drop the ball. Defensively, we just gave the game away.”

The Cats had a chance to get the lead back and had a first down at the Florida 21. But an incompletion and two quarterback sacks made Austin MacGinnis try a 48-yard field goal. As good as he has been, this time he was just off. The ball hit the right upright to leave the score tied 14-14 and leave Kentucky extremely frustrated at intermission.

Then the new Kentucky came back. The Cats held Florida without a first down to open the third quarter and behind Johnson’s pinpoint passing drove 67 yards in four plays to score on a 23-yard strike to tight end C.J. Conrad — the first productive tight end UK has had since the departure of Jacob Tamme in 2007 — for a 21-14 lead.

Kentucky could have put the game potentially out of reach with a first down at the Florida five. But a procedure penalty and high snap on third down pushed the ball back to where MacGinnis had to drill a 42-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead.

A Darius West interception — the first of his career — set up a 49-yard field goal and 27-14 lead with 11:33 to go and Kroger Field really got rocking then. But again Kentucky could not stand prosperity. Aided by a 50-yard halfback pass, Florida drove 80 yards in seven plays to cut the lead to 27-21 with 7:58 still to go.

But the last drive hurt the most. The Gators methodically marched down the field as time wound down before backup quarterback Luke Del Rio hit a wide-open Freddie Swain with a 5-yard score with 43 seconds left that won the game.

“We were getting into a goal line set and both corners came out. It was our fault. We should have lived with the players we had. We should not have done that. With the crowd noise, our players could not hear,” Stoops said. “We have to do a better job coaching.”

Kentucky had 11 players on the field, but one was running off and no one was near Swain — and that just cannot happen.

“It was just our fault,” Stoops said. “This one is going to hurt because of what we have invested in this program. I know it hurts our players.

“There are things we have to do better but it is nice to know we have a team built that can play with Florida. That is a very talented football team and our players laid it on the line. It hurts because of what they put into it. You could have heard a pin drop in there (the locker room). They are deflated because they wanted to win this game.”

Stoops emphasized again that Kentucky played well enough to win and blamed himself for not doing more to put the team in position to win.

“We were definitely the better team,” Allen said. “We gave them too much. It just sucks.”

7 comments

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  1. OldFan

    Complete break down in the 4th quarter by Defense, Offensive Line, and Coaches. You cannot start getting “Conservative” on offense in the third quarter and expect to win in the SEC. Yes, the players hurt themselves many times, but when your defensive coach only sends out 10 players at a crucial point, that is on him. Too many times, on offense, UK coaches were coaching “not to lose.” UK gets beat by another backup QB.

  2. Mike

    Feeling sorry for the Cats?…not at all…we earned what we got…this is still UK football. We OL and Snell are not up to last year’s standards. The D line, which has been a strength to date and only giving up 50 plus yds per game were exposed by poor tackling and giving up 186 yds. Their strength was supposed to be their DL but their OL owned us for most of the night. There were some coaching chokes and miscommunications but the secondary still has some accountability for not covering their assignments. How do you give a team 14 points by leaving two receivers wide open? IMO we also underutilized Shiem King and CJ Conrad again. Charles Walker, Shiem, and Stevie were my MVP’s. I end this post with a question and a statement. The question is “did we set a record for high snaps in a game?”, and the statement is “we will not beat Florida in my lifetime”‘

  3. Norman Einstein

    Way too many mistakes and the Gators capitalized on most of them. I hurt for the players. I played in a game with a similar outcome and still replay it in my mind 46 years later. These Cats will be fine.

  4. Doug Ridley

    I want to complement Kentucky’s defensive backs. They did a pretty good job for blind men.

  5. Cats79

    Yeah this one hurts,, but we got to move on and correct those mistakes and out the 8 games make the best of it. On the holding call I’m little skeptical in fact it was holding. That’s twice the Gators dodge the bullet and fill like got away with win with the help of officials at the end of both games. Cats will be fine!!

  6. Larry Pup

    31 straight is beyond sad. The holding penalty killed the Cats and their last ditch chance. I didn’t think it was holding. Snell was long gone, and 93 had no chance to tackle him. I don’t think UF will repeat as SEC East champ. But as usual, they have UK’s number. UK can still be in the hunt. UK must put this behind them, and go prepare for the next team on the schedule. I also feel for those young men who gave it their all, it was a tough hard nosed football game. Florida, with their typical arrogant attitude who lucked out two weeks in a row.

  7. Mike

    There were lots of factors that affected the outcome of this game but IMO the main serial offender was Gran. He showed how good he could be in the first half and how bad he actually is in the second half and other games. Something about this dude that creeps me out. His ego and stubbornness seems to be unchecked. He is starting to give Coach K a challenge on the creep meter.

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