UK football to challenge 26-game losing streak against Florida

By Matt Overing | Sports Writer

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The University of Florida has beaten UK 26 consecutive times since 1986.

The last time UK faced a 26-game losing streak against an SEC school was in 2011. That year, the Cats beat the University of Tennessee 10-7 in Commonwealth Stadium in the final game of the season.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp said on Monday that the streak is not important to his team.

“Whatever the streak is, it doesn’t matter. It only matters what we do on Saturday afternoon,” Muschamp said.

Conversely, UK head coach Mark Stoops acknowledged that his team will have the streak in mind.

“I think it is motivation,” Stoops said.  “I think it needs to be talked about, but that can’t be the focal point.”

UK will be facing a Florida defense that ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense (14.7 points per game), rushing defense (55.3 yards per game), passing defense (157 yards per game) and total defense (212.3 yards per game) through the first four weeks of the season.

The Florida defense also tops the SEC in first downs allowed, with opponents averaging just 11.3 first downs per game.

Muschamp said he still thinks his defense can improve.

“You’re only as good as your next game and that’s our mentality,” Muschamp said. “We have to understand that whatever we’ve done to this point really doesn’t matter.”

UK may not be at full strength on offense for Saturday. Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith injured his shoulder against the University of Louisville last Saturday, but Stoops said he has been progressing well this week.

“Hopefully he’ll be on point,” Stoops said. “He’ll be on a pitch count.  We’ll keep an eye on how many throws he’s making, maybe, just to let him ease back into it for a day or so.”

Florida has an uncertain quarterback situation as well. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was injured last Saturday against the University of Tennessee. He was replaced by junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who will be making his first career start on Saturday against UK.

Murphy completed 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee. Muschamp said Murphy was ready to go when Driskel went down.

“He was ready for the opportunity,” Muschamp said. “His number was called and he was ready to go. I think he was handling it as well as you could handle it.”

Murphy said on Monday he is ready for his first start.

“I’ll be anxious,” Murphy said. “Once I get hit, I think I’ll be fine. I’ve been preparing as if I’m a starter for a long time now.”

Murphy, who ran 10 times for 84 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee, was asked if he considered himself a pocket passer or dual-threat quarterback.

“I would consider myself more of a dual threat,” Murphy said. “I feel like I can make plays with my feet when things break down. If things go wrong, I’m going to try and do things with my feet.”

Florida relies on controlling the pace of the game. The Gators lead the SEC in average time of possession per game at 39:15.

Stoops said Florida has a physical, run-oriented offense.

“They are quite physical when they want to be,” Stoops said. “When they get under center, it’s a lot of downhill running.  They’re not getting away from that.”