Wildcats Open SEC Play Against No. 15 Gators
Sept. 23, 2011
After losing its first battle for the Governor's Cup since 2006, Kentucky looks to regroup and get back to its winning ways by opening Southeastern Conference play with the 15th-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The matchup with the Gators will complete a three-game homestand for the Wildcats, who will travel to square off against nationally ranked LSU and South Carolina in the following two weeks. Offensively, Kentucky has been led this season by junior wide receiver La'Rod King, who has scored a touchdown in all three UK games this season. King leads the Wildcats in receiving with 14 catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns, while junior E.J. Fields is second on the team with seven catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Junior starting quarterback Morgan Newton continues to gain more experience and improve game by game. The native of Carmel, Ind., has completed 55.8 percent of his passes this season for 466 yards and four touchdowns. Newton is also third on the team in rushing with 50 yards, while true freshman Josh Clemons leads UK's rushing attack with 37 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, Kentucky is led by senior All-America linebacker Danny Trevathan, whose 38 tackles leads the SEC. The native of Leesburg, Fla., will look to extend his impressive streak of 12-consecutive games of 10-plus tackles against his home state school. Fellow senior Winston Guy is second on the team with 30 tackles, four tackles for loss, one pass breakup and two interceptions.
UK is looking for its first win over Florida since 1986. The teams have met annually since 1967.
Cat Scratches: Florida both a challenge and an opportunity for UK
Maybe it's a sign of how much Kentucky's football program has progressed over the past few years, but the Wildcats' 2-1 start to the season has been a disappointment to coaches, players and fans alike.
The upcoming schedule offers no respite for UK. Following a narrow defeat at the hands of the rival Louisville Cardinals, Kentucky jumps right into Southeastern Conference play against No. 15 Florida. The Wildcats understand the challenge that lies in front of them, but they also know that ending a 24-game losing streak at the hands of the Gators would make their early season struggles a distant memory.
Under first-year head coach Will Muschamp, the Florida Gators come to Commonwealth Stadium with a 3-0 record and boasting one of the best defenses in the nation.
The Gators rank seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing only 209.3 yards per game, while UF leads the nation in rushing defense only allowing 30.7 rushing yards per game. Florida is led by junior linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who has 16 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack on the season. Sophomore Jelani Jenkins is second on the team with 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack.
As a team, the Gators have an impressive 20 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hurries, 13 pass breakups and two blocked kicks this season.
Offensively, the Gators have performed well, scoring over 33 points per game. Senior quarterback John Brantley paces UF by completing over 65% (47-72) of his passes for 637 yards and three touchdowns.
Brantley's key targets are seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, who rank first and second on the team in both rushing and receiving. Rainey has 48 rushes this season for 306 yards and two touchdowns, while Demps isn't too far behind with 24 rushes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. On the receiving end, Rainey leads the way again with 11 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns, while Demps is second with eight catches for 68 yards.
Last Time vs. Florida
Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews hauled in a career-high six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough for the Cats, who fell to the Florida Gators 48-14 in front of a crowd of 90,574 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., last season.
Florida freshman quarterback Trey Burton began his six-touchdown career night with an 11-yard touchdown run from behind center. On the Gators' next possession, Burton switched the tables and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from UF starting quarterback John Brantley.
In the second quarter, the Gators' Jeremy Brown ended a Kentucky drive with a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Cats responded with a drive deep into Florida territory. It was there that Kentucky pulled off a fake field goal attempt, in which junior Randall Cobb, who was the holder for the kick, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Matthews. The touchdown pass capped the scoring in the first half and made the score 21-7.
After Florida's Burton rushed 10 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Cats' Matt Roark blocked the Gators' point-after attempt to make the score 27-7. Just over midway through the third quarter, Kentucky senior quarterback Mike Hartline threw a gorgeous 27-yard touchdown pass to Matthews to bring the Cats within 13 points. Hartline finished the game completing 21-of-39 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. Burton and the Gators responded, however, with a nine-yard touchdown rush from the speedy freshman. Burton continued his record-setting play in the fourth quarter with two more touchdowns.