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Kentucky Football coming off a Victory over SEC Rivals the South Carolina Game Cocks return to Kroger Field hosting the Arch nemesis Florida Gators. While Kentucky is coming off an impressive start to the season with a 4 and 0 record and just become Nationally ranked, the game many Kentucky Fans Look forward to the most is hosting the Florida Gators under the lights at Kroger Field. The Gators have dominated the series against the CATS and Since November 15, 1986, UK hasn’t defeated the Gators in Lexington. These two teams play each other annually alternating in between Lexington, and Gainesville. Up until three years ago in the 2018 Season Kentucky Football finally snapped a thirty- one game losing streak in Gainesville. The series between the CATS and GATORS began in 1917 with UK prevailing with a 52-0 win in Lexington, KY. The all- time series has been dominated by the Gators with a win/ loss record of 53 wins and only 18 defeats.
Kentucky has made huge strides during the Mark Stoops Era as the CATS have moved from a bottom tier SEC opponent to annually going to a bowl game and has ended some streaks that opponents and coaches have had long winning streaks against the CATS. For the longest time Kentucky couldn’t defeat the Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier until it happened a few years back on a cold October Night in Lexington, KY. Respect Was earned. Kentucky’s other SEC Nemesis the Tennessee Vols also had a long winning streak against the CATS. In recent years Kentucky has beat the Vols twice. Once in Lexington, once at Neyland Stadium. Respect was earned. Kentucky has beat in State Rival the Louisville Cardinals multiple times in the last few years and again Respect Was earned. For Kentucky to take the next step and move from mid pack SEC respectable but not Tier 1, Kentucky and the fan base need this win against the Gators.
This weekend enthused Kentucky fans will gather at Kroger Field with a believe Kentucky Football can prove that they’re the CATS are a tier one SEC team. The City of Lexington will be insane as Live Horse Racing returns with the Keenland Fall meet will begin racing this weekend, the first return many will see since October of 2019, a few months before the Covid 19 pandemic become a normal part of life. But the Primetime event will be a few miles up the road as the CATS and GATORS battle it out on the Gridiron at Kroger Field. Today the game was announced as being Sold out! 70,000 patrons sporting the Blue and White will fill Kroger Field and with the game on ESPN Primetime, the game will gather national attention. Kentucky will be playing for more than a victory; the CATS will be playing for Respect both in the SEC conference and nationally. If Kentucky can prove to the Fans and the rest of College Football that Kentucky can defeat the GATORS, Respect will be earned.
Since the Steve Spurrier in the 1990’s Florida has rose to National Prominence being not only a threat to not only win the SEC Championship, but also has become one of the top 10 programs in All of College Football. The Gators have won three National Championships and produced two Heisman Trophy Winners in Danny Warful and Tim Tebow. Kentucky has struggled competing against the Gators and a lot of CATS fans have envied and admired Florida’s success on the field. The Victory in 2018 ended the steak and made Kentucky respectable on the Grid iron, a victory Saturday Night puts Kentucky in the driver’s seat in the SEC Eastern division and will likely assure the CATS will finish near the top of the league standings and Kentucky will earn the Respect of so many fans and supporters of College Football.
Memorable games and close calls:
Over the years Kentucky Football has had some memorable games against the Florida Gators but would usually end in a heartbreaking defeat and left many Kentucky fans speculating maybe next year. I’m currently 37 years old and have followed Kentucky Football since the Tim Couch era during the late 1990’s. Every year I look forward to watching the CATS and Gators on the Gridiron and have attended the game in person once, the first memory that stands out is the games I’ve watched on tv is the 2002 game in the Swamp. Kentucky led Florida for much of the game and looked to end the streak until QB Lorenzon was about to get sacked and threw the ball to a Florida defender who intercepted the ball and returned the ball on a sixty-two-yard pick six and ultimately sealed the win with a 41-34 victory, this game still haunts UK fans and is a memory many UK fans would like to forget.
In 2017 I attended the Florida and UK game in Lexington as a spectator with my wife Rachel. Kentucky led the whole game, and the stadium was electric, literally feeling the ground shake on exciting drives. Kentucky led 27-21 late in the 4th Quarter and the atmosphere was one of the most memorable moments attending a life sporting event. Late in the 4th Quarter an uncovered wide Receiver got down field and scored a touchdown. Kentucky had one last possession and was able to drive the ball down field and set up the Field goal kicker for a last second victory, the kicker was unable to convert and once again Florida escaped with a narrow 28- 27 victory.
Finally in 2018 the Kentucky Football achieved the unthinkable and defeated the Florida Gators in the Swamp. Benny Snell was unstoppable in this game and the defense of Kentucky and Josh Allen and Eastern Kentucky native Cash Daniels was unstoppable. As the game ended, I remember seeing Daniles at mid field clashing two water bottles together and doing his best Stone-Cold Steve Austin impression saying “That’s the bottom line cause Cash Money said so.” The atmosphere in Lexington was insane and only typically seen in late March when the Basketball CATS made a deep run in the NCAAB tournament. State street burned couches and flipped cars as Thousands gathered to cheer on the monumental victory. At the newly opened KSBAR, KSR Cohost Ryan Lemond crowd surfed and popped champaign on spectators in the crowd. This weekend Kentucky can replicate this moment as the CATs take on the Gators and finally gain the RESPECT the Program needs, If Kentucky is able to Prevail and beat the Arch nemesis Gators Lexington, Kentucky will be a fun place to be on Saturday night.
Keys to the game:
Over the last couple of weeks Kentucky Football has been turnover prone and has cost the CATS severely leading to scoring possessions with the opponent getting good field position. Kentucky can’t defeat the Gators and turn the ball over four times like it did in Columbia South Carolina.
The Kentucky defense needs to continue their bend but don’t break approach to the game. De’ Andre Square has been impressive in his first four games along with the cornerbacks Tyrell Aillen who have anchored the defense. Kentucky needs to continue the defensive approach and not allow quick scoring plays down field.
Kentucky field goal kicker Matt Ruffalo has been the unsung hero of the Kentucky football team. On drives when Kentucky has failed to convert on third downs, Ruffalo’s leg has delivered with accuracy. Ruffalo’s play needs to continue, as I’m sure there will be times in this game that Kentucky puts together a drive but is unable to finish with a touchdown.
Special teams have been effective with the play of the above mentioned Ruffalo, Punter Chance Poor has also been impressive and has kept offenses starting in poor field position.
The Premiere Offensive players QB Will Levis, WR Wan’ Dale Robinson and RB Chris Rodriguez all need to have a good game and deliver their best performances of the seasons for the CATS to have a chance on defeating the Gators.
Saturday’s game against the Gators kicks off at 6:00 pm Saturday Night at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. The game will be broadcasted prime time on ESPN. Get ready Lexington and Kentucky this could be a memorable and exciting weekend.