Thirty very long years with 30 different ways to lose.
The last time Kentucky beat Florida in football, my VCR had a wired remote, I didn’t have a cordless phone (but did have an answering machine), and the internet was spoken of in futuristic terms.
What a difference three decades makes. Except for that one constant: Kentucky plays Florida in football, and Florida wins. Sometimes by a little, more often by a lot, but always the Cats walked away with the L.
But this year felt different. Sure, other years felt different as well, but this one seemed like it would finally be the year for this painful streak to end. The Cats have been steadily improving since last year’s thrashing by the Gators while Florida hasn’t seemed their usual strong selves recently. A 7:30 kickoff, a sellout crowd, and perfect weather set the stage for what the Big Blue Nation hoped would be the biggest achievement in the Mark Stoops era.
The first quarter was almost all Kentucky with the Cats holding the edge in key categories: rushing yards (37-19), passing yards (86-37), and time of possession (9:32 to 5:28). Most importantly, UK had the advantage on the scoreboard, holding the Gators scoreless for the opening 15 minutes while scoring 1 touchdown, a beautiful 14-yard throw to Blake Bone.
Florida struck back quickly with a touchdown of their own, knotting the score at 7 only a minute into the 2nd quarter. A couple of times, it appeared Kentucky would take full control of the game only to have an untimely penalty kill momentum. Nevertheless, it was the Cats who would strike next as Stephen Johnson completed a 9-yard pass to Garrett Johnson to put the Cats on top again, 14-7.
Not surprisingly, Florida had another efficient drive ending with a touchdown and once again, tied the Cats. Even with 2 penalties against the Gators on one play, including a targeting call that resulted in the Florida defender being ejected from the game, Kentucky couldn’t capitalize and the teams went to the locker room knotted at 14.
The 3rd quarter was all Kentucky as they scored 10 more points and held the Gators scoreless. Another field goal for the Cats early in the 4th quarter made the score 27-14 and you could feel the excitement building. The fans were starting to believe this really was the game. This seemingly endless streak was at long last going to come to an end.
But that nagging little thought remained in the back of the fans’ minds. This was Florida. Surely something would happen that would crush their hearts. And this thought couldn’t be shaken, especially after Florida put together a 7-play drive for a touchdown, closing the gap to 27-21 with just under 8 minutes remaining. The Cats stalled on offense again and Florida methodically marched down the field, eating up yardage and valuable time on the clock.
With 43 seconds left on the clock, the Gators did what they have done time and time again over the years: they scored another touchdown and for the first time in the game, took the lead, 28-27. But all hope was not lost. Kentucky managed to get to midfield and all they needed was one more play to get into comfortable field goal range. And that’s exactly what they did when Benny Snell ran for 10 yards getting the ball to Florida’s 25-yard line.
But that’s when the unthinkable happened. The fans had barely started the cheers when suddenly you could feel the life get sucked out of the stadium. That little yellow flag on the ground.
The flag seemed to be thrown fairly late, at least for an offensive holding call. However, in true snakebit fashion, offensive holding is exactly what the officials decided had occurred and the 10 yards Snell had gained were erased, as was the play and the Cats were back to the 45-yard line. A 6-yard completion to Charles Walker gave Austin MacGinnis a 57-yard field goal attempt. Though his aim was true, the kick fell several yards short of the uprights and time expired.
CJ Conrad….These players are crushed tonight.
— Cameron Mills Show (@cameronradio) September 24, 2017
This one hurt. It hurt really bad. Several players left the field in tears. The fans were dejected and the magical atmosphere that had permeated Kroger Field for 59 minutes of the game evaporated in an instant.
Now I have a DVR, no landline, a cell phone and voicemail instead of an answering machine, and the internet is thriving. Yes, much has changed in the past 31 years, but one thing remains the same. The streak lives on…at least for one more year.
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