GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Kentucky no longer has to look back a decade or two to find a game in which it played Florida close.
The Wildcats (0-1) gave the Gators (1-0) all they could handle the last two seasons, but Kentucky is not looking for morale victories. Kentucky’s futility against Florida has reached 29 consecutive losses, the longest current run in major college football between teams that play annually.
The Cats will try to prevent it from becoming a three-decade skid Saturday in Gainesville in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
“I always say every year is a new year and a new team,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “Last year’s game — win or lose — is behind you. But I definitely think that our players will respond and play well. … We know it is a real challenge. We know that we have to play very well or we will not have a shot.”
Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing Week 1 performances, although in different ways.
Kentucky failed to score in the second half, squandering an 18-point lead and losing 44-35 at home to Southern Miss.
Florida, meanwhile, was far from content with its 24-7 victory against UMass, which gave up 48 or more points four times in 2015. The Gators finished with 363 yards and no turnovers, but had only a handful of big plays against what should have been an overmatched opponent.
But Kentucky should have a little extra incentive, its last win in the series came in 1986, in Lexington, and they have to go back to 1979 to find their last win in Gainesville.
There have been several close calls since, most notably in 1993, 2003 and the last two meetings. Florida escaped in triple overtime in 2014 thanks in part to a fourth-down touchdown that included a questionable no-call.
“It was a crazy finish,” Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis recalled. “And it’s something that I don’t want to have happen again. It was a roller-coaster that I didn’t want to be on for a while, but it came out our way. So I just want to make sure that we handle business.”
Davis and his defensive teammates did their part last year on the road, holding Kentucky to 241 yards and three field goals in a 14-9 win that kept the streak alive.
“It’s there,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “The biggest piece to me is that was done by teams before. … Those streak things, I don’t know. I think it’s something to write about. But really every year’s different. Right now it’s 0-0. These two teams have never played, and I think that’s the key.”
Some other things to know about Kentucky and Florida heading into the game:
ANOTHER STREAK: The Gators have another streak on the line, one they would like to end. Florida has failed to score 30 points in 10 consecutive games, the program’s longest such streak since before Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990. The last time the Gators failed to reach 30 points in 11 straight games was in 1979, a winless season.
WILDCATS’ WIDEOUTS: Maligned the past few years for dropped passes, Kentucky receivers had an impressive opener against Southern Miss. Garrett Johnson, a Florida native who caught six passes for 154 yards and two long TDs in Gainesville in 2014 — had six catches for 143 yards and two scores. Jeff Badet and Kayaune Ross also had TD receptions.
SUSPENSIONS OVER: Florida could have four players make season debuts. Cornerback Jalen Tabor and tight end C’yontai Lewis were suspended for the opener for fighting in practice. Freshmen receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells were suspended for firing BB guns in a residence hall in July. Cleveland and Wells might not play because of hamstring injuries.
BEING HONORED: Florida will honor its 2006-07 men’s basketball team, which won back-to-back national championships. Coach Billy Donovan, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer are among those expected on hand.