Cats in right frame of mind going into UF game

Published 11:30 am Friday, September 29, 2023

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It took three decades for Kentucky to defeat Florida in football.

The Wildcats broke a 31-game losing streak to the Gators in 2018 with a 27-16 triumph in Gainesville. Since that time, Kentucky has won two in a row and three of the past five games in the series, including a 20-13 two years ago at Kroger Field.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen remembers the team’s win over the Gators in his first tour of duty with the Wildcats two years ago.

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“Two years ago, the Florida atmosphere was electric,” Coen said. “The whole experience was electric. I fully expect it will be the same way.”

Despite the recent trend of wins, the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) still perceive the Gators as one of the teams to beat in the SEC East and will take the same approach into Saturday’s contest set for noon.

“This week truly is all about demeanor, mentality, fundamentals and technique,” Coen said.

In the first practice since posting a 45-28 win over Vanderbilt in their conference opener last Saturday in Nashville, Coen said the Wildcats had the right approach, beginning with the team meeting.

“Coach (Mark) Stoops set the tone and we came out and had a good Monday practice,” Coen said Tuesday. “I thought today was solid. Their tempo, their demeanor, the mentality in practice (Tuesday) was mostly the right one.”

In the win over the Commodores last weekend, the Wildcats raced out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter that set the tone for the team’s offense. In order to be successful against the Gators, Coen said the Wildcats have to display the same consistency they did in spurts last weekend.

“We have to match that intensity and play to the standard at which we played in the Vanderbilt game more consistently,” he said.

He added that Florida’s defense also will be a challenge.

“That’s why we call it terrible Tuesday and wicked Wednesday because we’re giving them as much crap that we can throw at them.” Coen said. “Maybe even overload. It’s frustrating on Tuesday, it’s a little bit more frustrating on Wednesday but we’re hoping that at this thing, you’re getting better at blocking movement.”

Florida (3-1, 1-0) has allowed just 54 points this season, compared to 62 for the Wildcats. Gators coach Billy Napier has been impressed with Kentucky and its upward progression under Stoops.

“We’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Stoops and the program that he’s built there,” Napier said. “The consistency at which they play and the brand of football they play. The fundamentals, the philosophy. It’s a tough place to go play (and) our players are well aware of the program Kentucky has.

“They’ve beaten us two years in a row. I do think there are challenges that come with going and playing on the road in this league and Kentucky is one of those.”