Joker Phillips is ignoring the elephant in the room.
The strategy worked perfectly against Tennessee in 2011, so it’s what Kentucky will do when it visits Florida on Saturday in an attempt to end its 25-game losing streak against the Gators.
“We have not mentioned it,” Phillips said.
He used the same approach as his team prepared for its season finale in 2011 against Tennessee.
The Wildcats hadn’t defeated the Volunteers since 1984. After not speaking a word about the 26-game losing streak all week, Kentucky defeated Tennessee 10-7 in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 26 to conclude its season.
“It’s been our theory, you know. Why bring those things up?” Phillips said. “You hear it enough outside of here. Therefore, we don’t bring them up. We just try to continue to prepare the best way we can to play as good as we can.”
Phillips is very familiar with the lopsided series against the Gators.
Before the losing streak began, he lost four straight to Florida as a wide receiver for Kentucky from 1981-84. He was an assistant coach for 16 losses during the streak and has been the head coach for two more.
While Phillips has a lot of history with the series, he does not expect his players to be affected by it.
“A lot of those guys haven’t been a part of it,” Phillips said. “It’s such a young team. A lot of first- and second-year players. The only games that [the underclassmen] realize is the one a couple of them played in last year and the one these true freshmen are about to play in.”
In order to break the streak, the Wildcats will have to slow down the Gators’ much-improved offense.
Phillips is well aware of the added emphasis Florida has put on the running game this season.
“One of the things that they’re doing that’s different from two years straight, running the football more,” Phillips said. “You can notice the difference in the run game. They have a fast, physical back.”
Phillips was referring to starting running back Mike Gillislee, who last year had six rushes for 84 yards in Florida’s 48-10 win at Kentucky, including a 60-yard touchdown run.
However, all of his carries came after Florida took a 31-point lead.
He is now the Gators’ featured back, and Phillips said Gillislee is finally getting a chance to show what he can do.
“He’s getting opportunities now,” Phillips said.
“He’s always been a really good back. He has more opportunities now with Rainey and Demps not being there, and this has given him an opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of it.”
Even though it will take a season-best effort from the Wildcats to break the streak, nose tackle Omar Hunter said the Gators aren’t letting the past results make them overconfident.
Florida respects Kentucky’s fight.
“They have nothing to lose,” Hunter said. “That’s the scary thing about this team. They have nothing to lose. Streak being 25 games, you know, they’re going to do whatever it takes to get a win. That’s the scary thing about this game.”
Contact Josh Jurnovoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips reacts after his team failed to make a first down against in their season-opening NCAA college football game against Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky., Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. Louisville won 32-14.