It’s one thing to beat a team five out of six times or eight out of ten. That’s domination. But to beat the same team year in and year out for 19 straight years is simply amazing. That’s the way it’s been for the Florida Gators against the Kentucky MildKats heading into Saturday night’s contest.
For Florida’s freshman class few if any of them were alive in November of 1986 when the Gators fell to Kentucky by a 10-3 score up in Lexington. Since then there have been blowouts, solid wins and a couple of near misses.
Kentucky’s best chance to end the run came in 1993 when the Gators overcame seven interceptions for 24-20 win when Doering caught a touchdown. Kentucky also had Florida in deep trouble in 2003, taking a 21-3 lead into the fourth quarter. However the Gators scored a couple of touchdowns to get within five points at 21-16. Then Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen (aka: The Pillsbury Throw Boy) tried a Frisbee throw under pressure and Johnny Lamar returned it to one yard line. Kentucky threw scares into the Gators in 1991 and 2002 as well, but the streak goes on.
To help appreciate the distance traveled since Kentucky won a football game against the Florida Gators, here are some other things that happened in 1986.
* Britain and France announce plans to build the Chunnel under the English Channel.
* The Chernobyl nuclear power plant explodes.
* Iran/Contra scandal breaks
* Gerald opens Al Capone’s vault, finding nothing but a bottle of moonshine.
* Bill Buckner lets grounder go through his legs as Mets win game six of the World Series.
* Urban Meyer hired as graduate assistant coach at Ohio State.
* Unemployed Steve Spurrier seeks position after the demise of the USFL.
* Space Shuttle Challenger explodes just a minute after take off.
* Space probe Voyager II reaches Uranus (ouch!).
* Dale Brown coaches LSU to NCAA Final Four.
* Dwayne Schintzius enrolls at the University of Florida; the Gators would earn their first NCAA bid ever the following spring.
* Jeremy Foley named interim Athletic Director at the University of Florida.
* Mike Tyson knocks out Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever.
* Jack Nicklaus becomes the oldest Masters winner ever.
* Len Bias dies of a cocaine-related seizure
* David Nelson, Darryl Gresham Jr., Jonathan Phillips, Eric Rutledge, Jim Tartt, Phil Trautwein were all born.
That’s a long time ago.
Remembering that Day
I was the sideline reporter on the Gator Radio Network in 1986 and remember vividly the circumstances surrounding Florida last loss to the Kentucky football team. It was quite a big surprise and a major disappointment.
The Gators were digging their way out from under NCAA sanctions in 1986 and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t an oncoming train after all. After opening the season with an easy 38-14 win over Georgia Southern, Florida lost four straight games, though they weren’t blown out in any of them.
The slide ended with a rout of Kent State and a boring, methodical win over Rutgers up in the meadowlands in New Jersey. (And I got to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden that night!). The Gators were now 3-and-4 facing ranked teams in Auburn and Georgia.
Somehow Kerwin Bell was able to hobble into the end zone and beat the Tigers. A week later another comeback effort produced a 33-19 win over the Georgia Bulldogs. Florida was now 5-and-4 and had a bowl bid in the bag if they could win up at Kentucky.
I flew into Lexington early Friday and it was glorious day. Bright sunshine, a light breeze and relatively balmy 65 degrees was ideal and unseasonable weather for November 14th. Unfortunately the game was played on the 15th.
Saturday morning it was back to the same awful weather Florida football teams normally got to play in every other year. Gloomy, overcast, misty and 40 degrees were the game time conditions and I can tell you on the field it felt colder. And from the field it was obvious the weather was bothering the Gators. Throughout pre-game warm-ups Florida mishandled the ball, dropped passes and bitched and moaned about the conditions. I reported upstairs that I thought the Gators were in trouble. I was correct.
The game itself was pretty uneventful. Florida trailed most of the way and their best shot at the end zone went by the wayside when Darryl Woulard was caught from behind just a few yards short of the end zone. Otherwise Florida’s offense performed pretty much like it did during warm-ups. When it was over the Wildcats had a 10-3 win and the Gators had a third straight year without a bowl game.
The amazing thing about the 1986 season is that it ended in a rainstorm in Tallahassee as Ricky Nattiel caught a winning touchdown pass. So the ’86 Gators managed to beat Auburn, Georgia and Florida State in the same season and still finished just 6-and-5.
Saturday night the Gators should make it 20 in a row over Kentucky. No matter what I promise you this: win or lose, Marcus Thomas or no, the Gators won’t finish 6-and-5 again.
Not in a 12-game season they won’t.