Florida versus UK: straight from a Gators mouth



By Joshua Huff

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The shift in the air surrounding the University of Kentucky football program is subtle, yet palpable.

Much like the start to last season, the thoughts surrounding UK’s 2-0 record border on cautious optimism. Students may dispel the start as typical UK tomfoolery, but one thing is different this year – people are actually defending this team in the face of criticism.

And it’s not hard to see why.

Fresh off defeating South Carolina and ending a 22-game road losing streak, the Cats now have the opportunity to strike down another record: the 28-game losing streak to Florida. And as of Wednesday, the Cats have ended yet another streak: for the first time in five years, UK has sold out Commonwealth Stadium in back-to-back games.

How’s that for a start to the season?

As Florida gears up for Saturday, the same preparations are being made down in Gainesville. Fans and students are anxious to see the Gators in their first conference game under head coach Jim McElwain. To flip the script a bit, the Kernel has reached out to Florida’s student newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, to gauge how it views the upcoming matchup.

According to Graham Hall, The Independent Florida Alligator’s sports editor, not all opinions of UK are negative, much to the surprise of UK’s faithful.

“For years, UK has been referred to as a basketball school and Florida has been coined a football school,” Hall said through email. “In all honesty, that hasn’t been true for either program since 2006. Both teams can compete with each other. The Gators have enjoyed more success, but the Cats have shown each year, maybe none more than last year’s triple-overtime spectacle that they can compete with Florida.”

UK may be able to compete, but the task will be tough. Florida enters the game coming off a sub par performance against East Carolina, and will look to dispel any fears after Saturday’s near collapse. Hall thinks that even though Florida enters 2-0, the Gators may be in trouble against UK.

“Florida executed its offense well against New Mexico State, even if the Aggies aren’t the most menacing of opponents,” he said. “But against East Carolina, the Gators struggled with execution and discipline. Florida came away with two victories, but McElwain left them feeling embarrassed and unprepared to face UK.”

The key for UK this Saturday will be rattling Florida’s two second-year quarterbacks: Will Grier and Treon Harris. Neither of them have yet to claim the starting position, and McElwain has said he plans on starting both, which will be beneficial for a UK team that has thrived off of turnovers this season. Two of which contributed to UK’s win against South Carolina.

“Both Grier and Harris have proven capable of leading the offense, to varying degrees of success,” Hall said. “Most fans seem to believe Grier will inevitably be deemed the starter, but there’s a strong support for Harris to lead the team due to his superior athleticism.”

Whoever starts for Florida will inevitably spend most of their time handing the ball to Kelvin Taylor. He is the son of Florida star Fred Taylor and was the recipient of a public sideline berating from McElwain during the East Carolina game. McElwain has since named Taylor the third-string running back, but with two freshmen ahead of him (Jordan Cronkite and Jordan Scarlett), look for Taylor to still handle the bulk of the carries.

“Taylor will come out hungry after being relegated to third team on the depth chart, but the Cats know this,” Hall said.

What else is known is that both programs are still searching for answers, and both sets of fans understand that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“There is definitely an increased level of optimism surrounding the program,” Hall said of Florida. “The Gators have a fresh start with an entirely fresh staff, and the entire team has bought in.”

Come Saturday, all the talk will be just that – talk. It’s now up to the players to decide the outcome.


(Kentucky) Joshua Huff: UK 24, Florida 21

(Florida) Graham Hall: Florida 20, UK 17