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Saturday, December 03, 2022

Florida’s winning streak on line vs. Kentucky

<p>UF football coach Jim McElwain walks out of the visitor's tunnel prior to Florida's 14-9 win against Kentucky on Sept. 19, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.</p>

UF football coach Jim McElwain walks out of the visitor's tunnel prior to Florida's 14-9 win against Kentucky on Sept. 19, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jim McElwain looked confused, as if he was prepared for every possible question except for the one that was just asked.

Are you hoping to avoid a letdown against a mediocre Kentucky team?

“Us, letdown?” the coach said. “Look, we’re 0-3 after the end of the year last year, right? I mean, we got our tails kicked. We gotta show up no matter (who) it is.”

The Florida football team hasn’t lost to Kentucky since 1986. That was when McElwain was just 24 years old and a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington. That’s 29-straight games.

But when asked whether Florida would take Saturday’s game lightly, an annual matchup against the Wildcats that UF hasn’t lost at home since 1979, McElwain wasn’t thinking about the two schools’ history.

Instead, he was thinking about UF’s end to last year, when it lost three consecutive games to FSU, Alabama and Michigan by a combined margin of 97-24.

“Great teams, the opponents don’t matter,” McElwain said. “It’s the personal part of the preparation and taking pride in who you are. ...and that’s where we’ve got to learn.”

McElwain isn’t thinking about UF’s streak against Kentucky (0-1). He’s more focused on what UF has to correct for Week 2.

After Saturday’s win, he criticized his offensive line for its lack of energy and hustle, and called UF’s penalty problems “disappointing” after a game in which the Gators (1-0) committed three personal fouls.

He expects his underperforming running back group — which combined for just 96 rushing yards in its debut — to be better.

And, with the return of corner Jalen Tabor from a one-game suspension, McElwain expects more production from his defensive backs.

“We’ve just got to come out and punch them in the mouth first,” corner Quincy Wilson said.

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Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was embarrassed by Southern Miss at home in Week 1, losing 44-35, but saw flaws from a Florida team that didn’t take a two-touchdown lead over UMass until the fourth quarter.

And although he’s aware of the history between the two teams, Stoops is ignoring the noise.

“The past 30 years have nothing to do with us and this team,” Stoops said.

Wilson disagrees. The junior defensive back is looking forward to opening conference play early after not having a pass thrown his way against UMass.

“I think that will definitely get the energy going,” he said with a smile. “We know we have a real opponent this week.”

Contact Ian Cohen at icohen@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @icohenb.

UF football coach Jim McElwain walks out of the visitor's tunnel prior to Florida's 14-9 win against Kentucky on Sept. 19, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.

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