Running Man-sour: The Big Blue highlight of the night came when Joe Mansour got to live out every kicker's dream by running 25 yards for a game-tying touchdown on a fake field goal in the first quarter. The play was brilliantly designed by UK special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, who had used it effectively a couple of times while at LSU, having holder Jared Leet flip the ball nonchalantly over his shoulder to the sweeping kicker toward the vulnerable spot in the defense. Mansour was a terrific athlete when UK recruited him out of LaGrange High School in Georgia, playing some receiver for the tradition-rich program. He had a chance to show it on that run, leaving the stunned Gators chasing him untouched into the end zone.
Yeah, but it wasn't as bad as… Let's face it. UK has absorbed some epic beatdowns at the hands of the Gators over the years. When you've been outscored 94-3 in the first quarter of the last four matchups, somehow 7-7 after one period and a 24-7 final score to the No. 20 team in the country doesn't feel that bad. Mark Stoops isn't going to accept a moral victory, but then again, he hasn't sat through the previous 26 losses. For at least a quarter and a chunk of the second period, Florida knew it was in a different kind of matchup. A step in the right direction is what the Cats needed in this series until Stoops can get more talent to Lexington.
Unexpected Big Play: When they have to give you a special jersey with no name on it in order to get you on the field, fans generally don't expect too much from you. Josh Forrest, No. 8 in your program but No. 45 on the field and No. 1 in your takeaway heart on Saturday, came up with a big interception in the third quarter that briefly appeared to give UK an opportunity to get back in the game. Unfortunately, he needed some more blocking help from his teammates in order to turn it into a potential scoring play for the defense, and Max Smith returned the favor to the Gators five plays later with an interception of his own.
Does It Really Matter? All week long, the Gators were put on "upset alert" by various media outlets in Florida and Kentucky and even by a few folks at ESPN. The primary reason was Florida struggling offensively last week against a bad Tennessee team after starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a season-ending injury. The Gators turned to junior Tyler Murphy – a 2-star afterthought in Florida's recruiting class four years ago – for his first career start on the road in the SEC. Big problem, right? Wrong. As UK fans have seen so many times before, it often doesn't matter who's under center for the opponent. The other 10 guys around him are more than good enough to compensate. Murphy completed his first 13 passes on the night, finished 15-of-18, and had both a rushing and passing touchdown. Up next for the Cats: South Carolina without injured quarterback Connor Shaw. Yeah. Don't even begin to think what you might be thinking. As Flavor Flav would say, "Don't believe the hype."
He Wears No. 8: No matter who the Kentucky braintrust is, it seems there is never any answer for Florida's Trey Burton, who was seemingly granted an NCAA waiver to play seven years in Gainesville. Burton is the Gator version of 1980s Philadelphia 76er Andrew Toney, aka "The Boston Strangler," who routinely broke out of his role as just a good player to become a great one against the Celtics. He has now scored eight of his 20 career TDs against the Cats.
Run Defense Stamina: The Cats are having trouble holding up against the run over the course of an entire game. You'll see flashes of really good run defense – at least by recent UK standards – but the offense's inability to sustain drives is putting D.J. Eliot's unit back on the field far too often, and it's getting worn down. The result is big rushing yardage piling up against UK in the second half of all three losses. Western Kentucky rushed for 216 yards, Louisville 242 and Florida 259.
What The Heck? That was the PG-13 reaction to UK's end-around option pass that never was in the third quarter. Receiver Daryl Collins appeared to have quarterback Jalen Whitlow open on the throwback pass with room to run, but hesitated and was sacked. Suddenly, a 1st-and-10 situation at Florida's 22 and a great opportunity to make it a one-possession game turned into 2nd-and-21 at the 33. On the next play, Smith forced a ball into the end zone that was picked off by Hargreaves. Was the trick play a bad play call? Botched execution? Debatable, but UK's second trick play attempt of the game didn't go as swimingly as the first.
By The Numbers:
0 – Times Florida punter Kyle Christy stepped on the field Saturday night. Also the same chance you give yourself to win if you can't force a team starting a quarterback on the road for the first time to ever punt the football.
1 – Number of carries for UK freshman JoJo Kemp from the first quarter until the fourth quarter after gaining 11 yards on his first carry as the starting tailback. Even more perplexing was the coaching staff's inability to provide a reason for his lack of playing time after spending all week talking about how much they needed to get him on the field.
20 – Consecutive third-down plays without a conversion by UK spanning the last two games after going 0-for-13 versus Louisville and failing on their first seven attempts versus Florida. The one and only conversion against the Gators in eight tries came with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter. It's perhaps the biggest issue facing the offense as it prepares to face two more strong defenses in South Carolina and Alabama. The Cats desperately need some identity on that side of the ball.
1986 – Ronald Reagan. Eighty-nine cent gas. Top Gun. We Are The World. Our annual reminder of just how long it's been since UK defeated Florida on the gridiron. The streak is now 27, and you have to think it will be a talking point for at least a couple more years. Can the Cats get enough help through recruiting to take advantage of a (relative) downturn in Gator football and stop it shy of 30?