For 31 straight years, the Florida Gators put on a display of dominance against the Kentucky Wildcats — who could not, would not, did not win games of all varieties against the Gators — that ranked among the best in college football history.
In the 32nd year, the Wildcats sprang an upset worth writing home about.
But in the 33rd, Florida went back to its last script — and found it winning once again.
Just as they did in 2017, the Gators turned to another quarterback after Feleipe Franks was largely ineffective, Just as it did in 2017, Florida failed to make much headway on the ground. Just as they did in 2017, the Wildcats built a double-digit lead and carried it into the fourth quarter.
And just like they did for their 31st consecutive win over Kentucky, the Gators rose from the dead to beat the Wildcats, this time by a 29-21 score.
There were differences, yes. Franks left because of a gruesome injury this time, one that will probably prematurely end his 2019 season, rather than because of mere ineffectiveness. And he was replaced not by transfer Luke Del Rio but by career backup Kyle Trask, whose touchdowns required less falling asleep by the Wildcats and more resilience by him. And this time, the potential game-winning field goal missed by Kentucky wasn’t the last meaningful play of the game, thanks to a startling 76-yard sweep taken to the house by Florida’s Josh Hammond.
But, well: For the second time in three years, Kentucky had a double-digit lead against Florida at home, and the Gators were relying on their backup quarterback.
And for the second time in three years, Florida won.
Trask (9-for-13 for 126 yards, one rushing touchdown) will probably need to be even better than he was on this night going forward, even though his clutch flip of an option pitch to Lamical Perine created the first touchdown of Florida’s 19 unanswered points to end the game and his nimble feet got the four-yard score for the second one.
Florida’s defense will need to be better than it was on this night, when it was largely carved up by Kentucky backup Sawyer Smith — except for his three picks.
And Dan Mullen, who was slow to change gears from trying to get the Gators’ running game in gear and called many a debatable play before the perfect call to give Hammond the rock with under a minute to play, will face a lot of criticism and should do a fair bit of retooling of his offense going forward.
But Florida is 3-0, somehow.
And that’s a heck of a lot better than being 2-1.