Gators fend off hard fighting Wildcats

Will Muschamp and the gators escaped with one Saturday night....

The streak is alive. Barely.

Florida needed three overtimes to extend its winning streak to 28 years over Kentucky Saturday night, scoring a 36-30 win over the Wildcats when Matt Joes powered into the end zone from a yard out to end the Gators first overtime adventure since a 34-31 win over Georgia in 2010.

“We certainly made it interesting,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp, who saw the Gators struggle to make stops on the defensive end in the second half and miss opportunities to put the ball in the end zone or extend drives throughout the game.

The Gators gave up 369 passing yards, much because the Wildcats were able to isolate their receivers on Florida’s safeties, who weren’t very good in coverage. The Gators gave up two long scoring passes, both to Garrett Johnson and both due to busted coverage by the safeties. Johnson caught a 60-yarder and then added a 33-yarder in the third quarter. The Gators also gave up what will go down as a 25-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Towles to Stanley Williams but was actually a five-yard throw that Williams converted into a score, running to one sideline, then reversing his field and breaking tackles along the way while making the Florida defense look silly.

But despite the many breakdowns in the secondary, there were three interceptions and even though Jeff Driskel struggled to read the Kentucky blitz when the Gators got into scoring position, he did connect on 25-43 passes good for 295 yards and three touchdowns, two to Demarcus Robinson, who caught a school-record tying 15 balls for 216 yards.

The Gators also found success on the ground, pounding the ball for 237 yards with Jones accounting for 156 on 29 carries including the one-yard run that gave the Gators the win in the third overtime.

While the Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) were extending their winning streak over Kentucky, they also ended another embarrassing streak. The win was the first for the Gators in an SEC game since October 5, 2013 when they beat Arkansas, 30-10, and ended a five-game losing streak in league games.

The Gators travel to Alabama next week. The third-ranked Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC), hammered Southern Miss, 52-12, Saturday in a non-conference game in Tuscaloosa. Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) has an open date next week before hosting Vanderbilt on September 27.

FIRST QUARTER

Florida 0, Kentucky 0: Although the Gators outgained the Wildcats 131-42, they kept shooting themselves in the foot. On Florida’s first possession, Latroy Pittman dropped an easy catch for what would have been a first down to kill a drive at the Kentucky 42. The Gators got an unsportsmanlike penalty on first down that got their second possession off schedule. Late in the quarter on a drive highlighted by a 51-yard Jeff Driskel to Demarcus Robinson completion that gave the Gators a first down at the UK 29, Driskel made a horrible decision, throwing the ball when he should have taken a sack. Nate Williams picked off the pass and ran it back to the UK 48, killing another Florida drive.

SECOND QUARTER

Florida 3, Kentucky 0: The Gators finally got on the scoreboard with 7:18 remaining in the first half on a 35-yard field goal by Frankie Velez to cap an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive. The Gators did most of their damage on the ground with Kelvin Taylor carrying five times for 33 yards and Matt Jones ripping off a 17-yard run that gave UF a first down on the UK 23. That’s where the drive stalled, however. On third and five from the 18, Driskel threw behind a wide open Demarcus Robinson, forcing the Gators to bring on the field goal unit to get points on the board.

Kentucky 3, Florida 3: Kentucky tied the game on the final play of the half on a 35-yard field goal by Austin McGinnis to finish off a nine-play, 72-yard drive that was highlighted by a 26-yard Patrick Towles pass to Ryan Timmons and a 27-yard Towles to Blake Bone to the Florida 18 on a deliberate underthrow. The Gators outgained Kentucky 232-161 but the inability to convert on third down (Florida was 3-10) and Driskel’s very poor half – 7-20 for 116 yards, a pick, a couple of bad throws and four overthrows to open receivers on deep balls – kept the Gators from putting more than three points on the scoreboard.

THIRD QUARTER

Florida 6, Kentucky 3: The Gators regained the lead with a 22-yard Velez field goal with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter but it was a drive that the Gators should have come away with a touchdown. Brian Poole intercepted Towles on Kentucky’s opening drive of the quarter, running the pick back to the Kentucky 39. Florida got the ball to the Kentucky three for a first down, but the drive imploded from there. Jones was thrown for a two-yard loss and on consecutive plays, Kentucky brought the blitz to force incompletions. On third and goal from the five, Driskel had Jones wide open in the left flat for what would have been a walk-in touchdown but the pressure

Kentucky 10, Florida 6: The Wildcats answered the Florida field goal with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Towles to Garrett Johnson to finish off a five-yard, 75-yard scoring drive that took only two minutes off the clock. McGinnis added the extra point with 5:32 remaining in the quarter to give the Wildcats the lead.

Florida 13, Kentucky 10: Florida wasted no time regaining the lead. Andre Debose ran the kickoff back 43 yards to the Kentucky 44 and from there, Florida needed only three plays to get the ball into the end zone. Following a one yard run by Matt Jones, Driskel and Robinson hooked up for 33 yards to the Kentucky 10. On the next play Driskel hit tight end Tevin Westbrook, who had slid out into the flat with a five-yard pass that Westbrook took into the end zone with 4:27 left. Velez hit the extra point to make it a 13-10 game.

Kentucky 17, Florida 13: Towles and Johnson hooked up again on consecutive plays to cover 64 of the 74 yards the Wildcats drove the ball for the go-ahead score, both on busted coverages. The first was good for 30 yards, the second for 33 and the touchdown with 3:21 left in the third quarter. The McGinnis extra point gave the Wildcats a 20-17 lead.

Florida 20, Kentucky 17: Florida’s eight-play, 62 yards was all about Driskel and Robinson. They connected three times for 42 yards including a nine-yarder for the touchdown with 25 seconds left in the quarter. Consecutive Driskel to Robinson completions of 22 and 11 yards took the Gators from their own 48 to the Kentucky 19. From there, two Kelvin Taylor runs netted 10 yards to the Kentucky nine. On second and goal, Driskel found Robinson in the right corner of the south end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Velez added the extra point to make it 20-17.

FOURTH QUARTER

Kentucky 20, Florida 20: After Velez missed a 39-yard field goal with 13:48 to play in the game, the Wildcats held the ball for 12 plays and took 5:10 off the clock, tying the game on a 51-yard field goal by McGinnis. McGinnis got the benefit of a delay of game penalty. He missed a 46-yarder but the flag was thrown just before the ball was snapped. The five-yard reprieve gave McGinnis a second chance. His kick ticked the right goal post and slid in for the three points that tied the game.

FIRST OVERTIME

Kentucky 27, Florida 20: On Kentucky’s first play, Towles swung a little pass to Stanley Williams who almost made it to the west sideline when he was pinned in by several Florida defenders. Williams reversed his field, broke a tackle and then outran a host of Gators to the east sideline where he turned upfield and got the touchdown by diving for the pylon as he was hit by Jabari Gorman. The extra point gave the Wildcats a short-lived lead.

Florida 27, Kentucky 27: Amid the chaos of a clock running down and what seemed like no one on the same page on the Florida offense, the Gators got a touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson on third and three from the Kentucky five to send the game to the second overtime. Replays showed the play clock expired but the officials missed calling a delay of game. Driskel found Robinson open for a touchdown behind the Kentucky safety. Velez tied the game at 27-27.

SECOND OVERTIME

Florida 30, Kentucky 27: The Gators should have scored a touchdown to start the second overtime but Driskel held the ball way too long on a third and goal from the Kentucky three. Driskel rolled left and if he had thrown immediately to Robinson it would have been a score. Driskel kept rolling and made a late throw into coverage that Robinson still almost caught. On fourth down, Velez knocked a 20-yard field goal through to give the Gators the lead.

Kentucky 30, Florida 30: Florida might have won this one in the second overtime but a facemask penalty on Darius Cummings gave Kentucky new life and a first down at the UF 15. On third down at the 30, Cummings broke through to stop UK tailback Braylon Heard at the line of scrimmage but he grabbed the facemask giving the Wildcats an automatic first down. When UK couldn’t move the ball they settled for a 26-yard McGinnis field goal to tie the game and send into the third overtime.

THIRD OVERTIME

Florida 36, Kentucky 30: On Kentucky’s possession, Brian Poole came up with a pass breakup on Dorian Baker in the end zone on third down to force UK to try a 41-yard field goal. McGinnis was 3-3 on his previous attempts but he missed from 41 yards. When the Gators took over, it took four plays to pound the ball into the end zone, all straight up the gut runs by Jones. On the second play, Jones ground out a 16-yard gain to the six and followed that up with five tough yards to the one. He pounded the ball into the end zone on the next play to give Florida the win.


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