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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Gators look to keep 20-game streak against Wildcats

Kentucky not only has home-field advantage heading into Saturday?s matchup against UF, but the Wildcats also have a clear edge in momentum.

But when the No. 14 Gators (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) travel to Lexington, Ky., to take on the No. 8 Wildcats (6-1, 2-1 SEC), they?ll have history on their side.

Kentucky has suffered 20 straight losses at the hands of the Gators, last pulling off a victory against UF in 1986.

In other words, not only has no current UF player ever witnessed a loss to Kentucky, but the vast majority of the Gators? roster was not even born the last time the Wildcats bested UF.

BI don?t want to be on that team that broke the streak and didn?t hold up its end of the bargain,C wide receiver Andre Caldwell said. BIt?ll make me work a little harder and push harder to keep that streak going.C

But this is probably the best Kentucky team in that span.

Led by Heisman-contending quarterback Andre? Woodson, the Wildcats have torched opposing defenses with their high-octane offense.

Kentucky?s breakout came as no surprise to the Gators, who have watched the Wildcats? core of talent mature during the last few seasons.

BLast year when we played them, our coaches said they were going to be tough this year to beat,C wide receiver Percy Harvin said. BJust watching them play this year, we kind of expected it. We have to prepare for this game and look for a dogfight.C

The two teams have been heading in different directions as of late. The Wildcats are coming off a triple-overtime victory against then-No. 1 LSU.

Meanwhile, the Gators have lost two straight games, falling to Auburn and LSU.

Still, some things never change.

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Despite going on the road against the No. 8 team in the country, the Gators are favored to win by about a touchdown.

Caldwell agrees with the assessment of the oddsmakers.

BThey?re on the rise and getting better every year, but Florida is the powerhouse of the SEC, and we have too much skill and talent to be losing to them,C he said.

Kentucky came close to breaking the streak in 2002 and again in 2003, but came up short.

In 2002, Kentucky erased a 19-0 halftime deficit to take a 28-25 lead in the third quarter, but UF came back to win a tight game 41-34.

In 2003, Kentucky held an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Gators scored 21 unanswered points to earn a 24-21 victory.

For both UF and Kentucky, a lot more than just the streak will be on the line.

Both teams are very much in the mix to win the wide-open SEC East, and the winner of Saturday?s game will have a clear leg up on the other in that race.

The Gators will also be trying to avoid a third straight loss.

BIt?s hard to bounce back from a loss - especially two in a row - but our team has done a good job with that,C UF quarterback Tim Tebow said. BThe guys are working hard and getting ready for Kentucky, so I think we?ll be fine emotionally bouncing back.C

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