Sometimes, in college football, how a team wins can be as important a takeaway from a game as that a team won. So is the case with Florida’s 45-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday.
The Gators were dominant almost from opening kickoff to triple zeroes, rolling up 564 yards of total offense and allowing just 149. They led 14-0 in the first quarter, 24-0 at halftime, 45-0 before a late Kentucky touchdown that stemmed from a coverage bust.
Quincy Wilson snagged a pick from the sky with one hand. Luke Del Rio connected with Antonio Callaway through the sky for another. Teez Tabor snuffed out a screen pass by taking it away. Florida running backs combined for 244 rushing yards, and true freshman Lamical Perine — the fourth-stringer — had 105 of them.
Florida had three interceptions on the day. Kentucky had three completions.
This was an evisceration, as dominant a win as any in the Jim McElwain Era, as thorough an outclassing as any by a Florida team since the heydays of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Del Rio threw a pick and it didn’t matter. Eddy Piñeiro missed two field goals, one brutally, and neither will be remembered for long.
On a day when Florida hosted national champions who made history, the 2016 Gators suddenly looked like they could compete for titles.
The what of this win — a 30th straight over Kentucky, which hasn’t beaten Florida since before Ronald Reagan exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall — isn’t special. This is Kentucky, a program and a team that many Florida fans and players have yet to fear in their lifetimes, and the Wildcats appeared declawed at best in the swelter of The Swamp.
The how of it — found in Florida asserting itself in every way, getting sound protection from an offensive line bolstered by the insertion of freshman Jawaan Taylor, flashing more than just a dink-and-dunk passing offense, and utterly destroying Kentucky’s offense — might just have been a harbinger of special things to come.