LEXINGTON¿— Kentucky’s defense had been one of the bright spots to open the season, but was brought back to its knees Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Wildcats had given up a combined total of 40 points in their first three games, but 15th-ranked Florida eclipsed that plateau in four quarters with a 48-10 rout over Kentucky. The blowout extended the Gators’ winning streak over the Wildcats to 25 games.
Although a change in the Cats’ defensive approach with the hiring of co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter brought renewed enthusiasm, the excitement wasn’t enough to end the long trend against Florida. In fact, when compared to last year, Kentucky gave up more yardage against the Gators this time around.
The Cats surrendered 466 yards in last year’s 48-14 loss to the Gators in Gainesville. A new coach and offensive coordinator didn’t change Florida’s look and approach on offense.
Kentucky’s 3-4 defensive scheme didn’t slow the Gators, either and Florida didn’t miss a beat.
First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp’s squad racked up 520 yards of total offense, leaving the Cats shaking their heads and leaving Minter equally frustrated. Florida scored 40 points or more for the ninth time against the Cats since 2000 and eclipsed the 40-point plateau for the fifth time in a row.
“Obviously we aren’t very good,” said Minter, who “took the fall for the kids” following the contest. “In football you’re only as good as your last time out and so we’re not very good. We weren’t very good last week. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
It wasn’t the kind of performance the Cats were looking for following last week’s disappointing 24-17 loss to instate rival Louisville.
“They got the best of us tonight,” Kentucky linebacker Ronnie Sneed said. “They made some big plays and it was hard for us to come back after they started scoring so much. They just kind of took over.”
Sneed wanted to end the team’s recent history of losses to the Gators, but was disappointed the trend of setbacks continued.
“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “We always feel like we have a good shot at beating any team, but when you come out and the (other team’s) score (is so high), it gets under your skin. We just have to go back to the drawing board, figure out what we did wrong and what we need to do to correct those issues.”
Kentucky somewhat limited the guests’ passing attack, but failed to contain the run as the Gators rushed for 405 yards, with running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey combining for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
“You can’t have a team rush on you like that,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. “We can’t let teams run the football on us (like that).”
Minter also was disappointed in his team’s performance against the run, citing a Florida drive that started at the Florida 1-yard line and ended with an 84-yard run by Demps five plays later for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter.
Kentucky did scoop up a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception, but couldn’t cash in on the opportunities. Phillips said miscues in short-field situations put a “huge strain” on his team’s defense.
“We can’t put our defense on a short field,” he said. “You just can’t do that.”
Sneed said turnovers had “a lot to do” with what transpired on the field and proved to be a difference, especially in the first half.
“Anytime you have a lot of turnovers, it gives the other team momentum,” Sneed said. “Teams feed off the momentum and it becomes more of a challenge to settle them back down.”
It was that kind of night for the Wildcats.