Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall stood tall as the symbol of the Iron Curtain, a ball snuck past Bill Buckner to help the New York Mets win a World Series and gas prices were shockingly under a dollar per gallon. Much has changed in the ensuing three decades since 1986 but one constant has remained no matter what: Florida beating Kentucky in football.
So it continued on Saturday night.
The Wildcats came heartbreakingly close to ending their ignominious losing streak — the fourth longest in FBS history — at an even 30, but gave up two late fourth quarter touchdown drives to fall to their SEC rival Gators 28-27 in the most improbable of fashions.
While the streak has weighed heavily on Kentucky football as it stretched on and on, it felt like this was finally — finally! — the time that the Wildcats could come out on top as the home team played loose but disciplined on both sides of the ball nearly all night long to be firmly in control of this one. Quarterback Stephen Johnson proved to be a revelation behind center, throwing for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Benny Snell added another 59 yards for good measure and the team held the lead for just the fourth time in the final quarter during the streak.
But it didn’t matter, as Kentucky proved why they have been on the losing end of this series so many times over so many years.
UF wideout Tyrie Cleveland was the lone burst of offense late in the first half, helping turn a potential run-away into a tie game by catching a wide open touchdown pass from 45 yards out. He later setup another Gators’ score off a trick play that cut the lead to six midway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Luke Del Rio, who eventually entered the game late in the second half, led two touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes that included the game-winning pass to an open Freddie Swain in the corner. Appropriately, Kentucky had just 10 men on the field at the time to further twist the knife for a fan base that was once again left wondering how exactly that happened (again).
The Wildcats nearly drove the length of the field to set up a late field goal but a questionable holding call pushed them out of range and Austin MacGinnis’ 57-yarder came up short to once again put the team on the wrong side of history.
Florida remains afloat in the SEC East after the victory and now moves to 51-17 all-time against UK on the gridiron. Something says that latest edition to the series remains one of the most improbable though.