The thrill (and relief) of Kentucky’s big victory for Benny Snell
Ding dong the streak is dead.
Kentucky found a way on a crazy day to end a 31-game streak of futility against Florida, upending the No. 25 Gators 27-16 on Saturday night.
It was the Cats’ first victory over Florida since 1986 and their first at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 1979.
Streak busting didn’t look so likely at the half, after Kentucky turned it over twice inside Florida’s 35-yard line and trailed 10-7.
Twice it was quarterback Terry Wilson with the miscues, first a fumble after a 2-yard run and then a picked off pass near the Florida end zone.
Despite the miscues, UK coaches put him back in the game to start the third quarter and he made magic happen.
First, Wilson guided the UK offense 90 yards down the field and gave the Cats the 14-10 lead with a 24-yard touchdown scamper down the right side of the field.
Then Wilson extended the lead 21-10 with a beautiful, 54-yard pass to Lynn Bowden for the sophomore wideout’s first career touchdown. The unlikely bomb came on a third-and-16, but third down had been good to UK this game already with the Cats connecting on eight of their nine third-down tries at that point.
Wilson became the first quarterback since Jalen Whitlow did it in 2013 to have more than 100 yards rushing and passing in a game. The sophomore transfer completed 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards and ran it 105 yards.
Wilson was part of a ground attack that overwhelmed the Gators. The Cats (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) had 454 yards on the ground and held Florida to 355 yards.
Junior Benny Snell added 175 yards on 27 carries. Bowden led the Cats’ receivers with four catches for 79 yards and the score.
In all, the Kentucky offense outgained Florida 454-355.
For the second straight game, Kash Daniel led Kentucky with 11 tackles. Safety Darius West added eight tackles and a well-timed interception, the UK defense’s first turnover of the year.
Florida kept it interesting with a 99-yard drive down the field that ended in a Feleipe Franks 4-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Swain with 3:43 to go, but the Gators’ two-point conversion failed.
Former Henry Clay star Davonte Robinson recovered a fumble in the final seconds to score a touchdown and win it outright.
On its opening drive, Kentucky showed a little bit of everything: some Snell runs, a Wilson runs (including a big 31-yarder) and then a pretty 29-yard pass from Wilson to David Bouvier to cap the 91-yard drive for the Cats, who went up 7-0 early.
Florida (1-1, 0-1) looked ready to even it up, but a Phil Hoskins sack pushed the Gators back and forced a 29-yard field goal to make it 7-3 Cats early in the second quarter.
Moral Stephens’ 18-yard touchdown catch midway through the second quarter gave the Gators the advantage, 10-7. The senior tight end was wide open the end zone.
Twice Kentucky had a chance to go ahead or tie it before the break, twice getting inside the Gators’ 35-yard line and twice turning the ball over.
The first miscue came on the seventh play of a 50-yard play where everything seemed to be going right for the UK offense before Wilson fumbled it after a 2-yard gain.
With 32 seconds to go before the break, Wilson appeared to have an open receiver in the end zone, but was picked off by sophomore C.J. Henderson at the 2-yard line.
It was Kentucky’s sixth turnover in as many quarters of football this season after the Cats turned it over just 15 times in all last year.
So much went well for UK in the first half when it outgained Florida 224-156, including 161-51 on the ground. The Cats connected on five of their six third-down tries, which made the turnovers all the more brutal.