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Mark Stoops took ownership and now must make sure everyone moves on. Photo: Andrew Bishop, cameronmillsradio.com

The Kentucky Wildcats (3-1, 1-1 SEC) have experienced many an agonizing defeat at the hands of Florida Gators. They have been wide-ranging, there have been lopsided blowouts and last second heart breakers. The latest edition was the latter to the utmost degree.

Chris Doering had long been the culprit that sealed the deal in the most agonizing loss to the Gators (24-20 in ’93). His reign ended after the Gators left Lexington with a 28-27 victory that didn’t see them grab the lead until 59:17 had been played. Chris Doering was able to get behind the Kentucky defense in ’93. Yes, he was open, but he had to go and get open. As frustrating as that was, he still had to earn it.

If you’re anywhere near my age (nearing 40) and were a 90’s kid who grew up watching the NBA Playoffs you were definitely familiar with guys having to “earn it” from the line. Hard fouls, no layups/dunks, playoff fouls were the favorite phrases of spring and early summer.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I really believe M.J. would have dunked it had he known that A.C. Green and Sam Perkins were just going to stand around and watch. He went in preparing for contact and had a counter move, he went in there preparing to earn it, but I digress.

The fact that 14 of Florida’s 28 points weren’t scored the old-fashioned way in a game that saw Kentucky outplay Florida for most of the night is what makes the loss all the more excruciating. The Wildcats were able to overcome their first coverage error when Tyrie Cleveland was left unaccounted for on a fourth and one play that saw Feleipe Franks take the snap and play pitch and catch to tie the game at 14.

Kentucky shook that off, showed great resiliency, recaptured the lead and even got some separation to make it a two score game at 27-14.  When Florida responded to pull within 27-21 the setup for potential heartbreak began to loom and Kentucky fans yearned for the clock to begin ticking faster. The second massive defensive breakdown led to Freddie Swain being left wide open and fans both in the stadium and watching on television pointing and screaming that deja vu was about to happen all over again.

Kentucky again drove down the field and put themselves in position to win the game but a costly, questionable holding call led Austin MacGinnis to kick a game-winning field goal attempt that fell just short. Mark Stoops has owned it, as he should. There is nothing else he can do, only make sure they aren’t plagued by miscues like this in the future.

The process of moving on to the next one is already in full effect. Kentucky received more than their fair share of exposure for all of the wrong reasons on ESPN’s ‘C’mon Man!’ segment as well as various other shows. This was to be expected. Tennessee wore the same bull’s-eye when they allowed the Gators to connect on a 63-yard bomb in their 26-20 loss in The Swamp on the game’s final play.

As resilient as Kentucky was in trying to overcome their mistakes on the field, they seem to have the same mindset when it comes to moving on and making sure they still have a good season the rest of the way.

The Cats will get their first chance to respond and bounce back when they host Eastern Michigan (2-1, 0-1 MAC West) at 4:00 P.M on the SEC Network.

 

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