Mark Zerof / USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators' pass rush was the difference in a win over Kentucky

With the Florida offense sputtering in the second half, it was the defense that picked up the slack.

The Gators allowed 241 total yards but limited the big plays, forcing Kentucky to kick field goals when they got into the red zone. Florida extended its winning streak over the Wildcats to 29 straight games with a 14-9 win in Lexington on Saturday.

“Boy, the defense -- they almost get excited. They get excited when the chips are against them,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said on the postgame radio show. “They’re very competitive. I thought our front guys did a great job of pressuring the quarterback and coming up with some big plays.

The Florida defense ended the game with six sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and three quarterback hurries while holding Towles to 8-24 through the air for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister tied for the team lead with two sacks on Saturday, while Keanu Neal recorded a sack on a safety blitz and Caleb Brantley and CeCe Jefferson split another. For the second week in a row, linebacker Jarrad Davis led the Gators in tackles. The junior had 10, including 1.5 tackles for a  loss, on Saturday.

“Shout out to the defense for carrying us in the second half and making that key stop when we needed it,” Florida tight end Jake McGee said. “It’s a good team win.”

The defense recorded an interception on Kentucky’s first and last drives of the game. In the first drive, the Wildcats moved the ball 16 yards and faced a 3rd and 10. Quarterback Patrick Towles airmailed a throw, tipping off a receiver’s hands and falling right into the arms of All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who returned the ball to the Kentucky 19-yard line to set up Florida’s first touchdown.

With Kentucky down five points and needing to go 80 yards with 1:53 left to play, the Florida defense stepped up again. Bullard made a big sack on third down from the Kentucky 47, setting up a 4th and 22. After a false start moved it back five yards, sophomore Quincy Wilson picked off a pass and took a knee to give the Florida offense a chance to end the game.

Searching for a negative on the Florida defense is tough. They gave up two big gains on the ground -- a 23-yard gain by Stanley Williams and a 33-yard scramble by Towles.

“We’ve got to work on our gap control,” McElwain said. “We gave up some explosive runs, and we’ll get a little better at that. Overall, they played great, and they expect to play great. That’s what makes them real special.”

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