Now comes the hard part.
The University of Florida football team improved to 4-0 for the third straight year with a convincing 48-10 victory over Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, beating the Wildcats for the 25th consecutive time. The Gators turned four Kentucky (2-2, 0-1 SEC) turnovers into 24 points and rushed for over 400 yards as a team in a dominating victory.
In four games thus far the Gators (4-0, 2-0 SEC) have done nearly everything they could race out to a perfect 4-0 mark. Now comes October and the prospect of facing Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in the next four outings.
An outing like Saturday night’s at Kentucky would got a long way in helping.
The Gators have used a perfect balance of quick, efficient offense and attacking defense, getting a 45-yard touchdown pass from John Brantley to Gerald Christian, 20 and 84-yard runs by Jeff Demps, a 1-yard run by Trey Burton, a fumble return by Jaye Howard and a 60-yard run by Michael Gillislee.
Florida has once again raced out to the lead on the legs of its 1-2 running back tandem of Demps and Rainey. Demps has 10 rushes for 157 yards and two touchdowns while Rainey has hit the century mark again with 15 carries for 105 yards. It’s the first time two Gators have gone over 100 yards rushing in the same game since Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin did so in the 2009 BCS Championship game.
The Gators have rushed for 405 yards on the night on 46 carries (8.8 yards per attempt), the second time in four outings they’ve amassed better than 300 yards on the ground.
Both teams started slow offensively. The Gators received the opening kick off but were forced into a quick three-and-out. Kentucky was able to fair no better and quickly punted on its initial drive. On the Gators’ second possession John Brantley connected on an 11-yard pass to Christian to convert a 3rd-and-long before the drive stalled.
On Kentucky’s next possession, however, the Gators were able to make an impact, as Lerentee McCray stripped Josh Clemons and Omar Hunter recovered the fumble at the Wildcats’ 45-yard line. It took just one play for the Gators to capitalize as Brantley found Christian over the middle and the sophomore tight end scored from 45 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The Gator defense stepped up again and forced a quick punt setting Florida up at the Kentucky 42 on its next drive. Brantley, who continues to take what Kentucky is giving him down the field, connected with Frankie Hammond on a 20-yard gain on third down to move the ball to the Wildcats’ 20. The next play Demps took it around the right side and sprinted to the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
Kentucky got the ball back but didn’t have it for long as Morgan Newton was picked off by Matt Elam who returned it to the Wildcats’ 28-yard line. On the first play Chris Rainey came up with a spectacular 27-yard run starting to the left, reversing his field and coming up just shy of the end zone. A play later Burton found the end zone on a 1-yard run to give the Gators a 21-0 lead.
For Burton it was his seventh touchdown against the Wildcats in less than five quarters as he scored six times against Kentucky a year ago.
The game went from scoreless to 21-0 in the blink of an eye. The Gators’ three scoring drives took just seven plays, covered 126 yards and consumed just 2:08 off the clock combined.
The Wildcats responded this time, getting as far as the Gators’ 6-yard line before settling for a 23-yard field goal from Craig McIntosh.
Early in the second quarter the Gator defense continued to bring the heat. Jon Bostic got a hit on Newton who fumbled and Howard scooped it and returned it 2 yards for a 28-3 lead. Florida’s defense forced three first-half turnovers and turned it into 21 points.
With 2:54 left in the half Caleb Sturgis made it 31-3 with a 45-yard field goal.
The Gators appeared to be coasting but a big hit on Brantley on the play before Sturgis’ field goal sent the senior signal-caller to the locker room with the training staff (he returned in the second half). Freshman Jeff Driskel entered the game and fumbled at the Gators’ 26 setting up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Newton to La’Rod King to cut the lead to 31-10 with 1:18 left in the half.
In the second half the Wildcats pinned the Gators back at their 1-yard line after downing a punt near the goal line. Moments later, however, Demps showed his track speed, racing 84 yards for a touchdown, the sixth longest rush in UF history.
Linebacker Mike Taylor got in on the fun, intercepting Newton and returning it to the Kentucky 45. Taylor’s interception set up a 27-yard field goal by Sturgis late in the third quarter to increase the lead to 41-10 as he moved to a perfect 11-for-11 on the year.
Gillislee made it 48-10 with an electrifying 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the longest rush of his career, which closed out the scoring.
With four solid outings in the books, the Gators turn their attention to the first game of a brutal four-game stretch. The Gators host Alabama on Saturday night at 8 p.m. on CBS. In both 2008 and 2009 the two schools played for the SEC title – each was a match-up of No. 1 vs. No. 2 – and the winner ended up claiming the BCS title in each case.
For Gator head coach Will Muschamp it will also be his first meeting with his mentor, Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Muschamp was a member of Saban’s staff from 2001-04 at LSU and in 2005 with the Miami Dolphins.