Week 1 of the college football season has come and gone. Many programs chose to start their season with a warm-up game against a clearly lesser opponent - Clemson against Furman, Georgia against Austin Peay, Oklahoma against Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati against UCLA - but in Week 2, conference play starts for some.
One of the most critical in-conference matchups in Week 2 will test two coaches at different junctures in their current position. On one sideline, we have Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, hoping to truly break through in his sixth season in Lexington. The Wildcats have improved from their cratering at the end of the Joker Phillips era to qualify for bowl games two seasons in a row, but have yet to show that they can truly compete in an improving SEC East. On the other sideline, former Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has returned to Gainesville with high expectations after nine solid seasons in Starkville.
Florida kicked off the season with a handy 53-6 polishing of Charleston Southern that allowed the Gators to sneak into the rankings at #25, their first since a Week 5 loss to LSU last season that helped spell the end of the Jim McElwain experiment. The Wildcats also started strong, fending off a second-quarter charge from the Central Michigan Chippewas en route to a 35-20 victory.
Oh, also, Florida has won 31 in a row in the series.
Let’s take a look at how Saturday night’s contest at The Swamp might play out!
THEY BLOCKED THE KICK! THEY BLOCKED THE KICK!
After taking a 24-10 lead into halftime, the Gators looked stunned at the Wildcats came out hot for the third quarter, striking on two deep balls from quarterback Terry Wilson, tying the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Benny Snell Jr. punched in a 4-yard run to put the Wildcats up 30-24. A missed extra point hurt, but a booming kickoff and short return left Florida with 78 yards to go with only 1:47 left on the game clock.
Felipe Franks connected with Dre Massey and Trevon Grimes for consecutive long gains, and the Gators found themselves within the Wildcats’ 20 with still 1:15 left. Coach Mullen went to the ground, trying to leave nothing on the clock for UK after a Gators score. And, with only 10 seconds left, Franks took it in himself from two yards out for the tying score, with an extra point attempt to win it.
And Kentucky blocked the kick! They blocked the kick! Kentucky just needs to down the ball and we’re going to overtime! ... the ball is still live! Kentucky’s going to try to run it out! We might have an Iron Bowl situation here! And - Kentucky has been taken down in the end zone. The one-point safety gives Florida a 31-30 victory.
HIS KNEE NEVER TOUCHED THE GROUND
With Kentucky holding on to a 35-31 lead and only 2 seconds left on the clock, the Gators pulled off something reminiscent of the Duke-Miami fiasco of a few years ago: a series of eight laterals as time expired. On the eighth, Kentucky defenders pulled up as the knee of Florida’s Malik Davis clearly struck the turf, ending the game. Davis scrambled to his feet and trotted into the end zone unmolested.
Replay review showed that Davis’s knee had actually been kept off the turf by a turtle that had wandered onto the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The turtle was unhurt, and was given the game ball.
Kentucky rallied to force overtime behind the strength of a 51-yard, game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. On the first play of overtime, the Wildcats made a firm statement, running it straight in, 25 yards for the lead.
In Florida’s half of overtime, a stout defensive effort by the Wildcats pushed them to 4th-and-7, and the play clock ran out before what would’ve been a tying touchdown for the Gators. But... there were no flags! Florida tied the game, then went on to win in triple overtime.
[checks notes] oh, I’m sorry, this one happened in 2014.
INELIGIBLE PLAYER ON THE FIELD
Kentucky rallied from a first-half deficit close within 4 of Florida, 21-17 in the waning seconds. Backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak connected with David Bouvier for a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
But - replays showed that Kentucky had a 12th player on the field, and the penalty handed Florida a surprising victory.
Further review of the tape showed that the apparent twelfth player was actually the advertising windsock from a nearby T-Mobile store that had blown onto the field briefly. SEC officials later apologized for the error, but noted that Florida’s victory stands.
IT FINALLY HAPPENED
After decades of close, last-minute finishes and stunning heartbreaks, Kentucky made it clear this one was going to go differently. Behind one of the finest defensive outings in Mark Stoops’ tenure, and a QB-controversy-ending performance by Terry Wilson, the Wildcats staked themselves to a 41-14 lead in the fourth quarter; a lead so definitive Dan Mullen pulled many starters from the game rather than risk injury in a game whose conclusion was foregone. Kentucky had done it - their first win against their division rival since 1986, a performance that could put them in the upper half of the SEC East this year, and hmm that appears to be a rumbling of thunder in the distance, the officials might just call this one now, if that’s -
Ah, well. Nevertheless.