By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
Editor’s note: This is the third of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season.
GAME 3: Florida at Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. at Kroger Field, ESPN
LAST YEAR: Kentucky broke a 31-game losing streak to the Gators with a 27-16 victory a year ago in Gainesville.
COACH: Dan Mullen, second season. Record at school: 10-3. Overall, 79-49.
LOOKING BACK: Mullen guided the Gators a 10-win season in his first year at Florida. Mullen won six of his first seven games before suffering back-to-back defeats to Georgia and Missouri, respectively. It was then Florida caught fire and won its last four games. The stack of wins included victories over instate rival Florida State in the regular-season finale, followed by a 41-15 rout of Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Florida scored 35 points or more in its last four games of the season. “I think we took great strides in our first year in the program,” Mullen said. “You know, when you look in year one, you get a ten-win season, you finished ranked sixth in the country in the final polls, it was really exciting. It showed how fast our guys bought in to what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to build. And we have a great group of guys coming back, a lot of talented players coming back on this year’s team that now have won games and have high expectations and understand what the Gator standard is all about. It’s about competing for championships every single year. And the positive attitude we have is really exciting.”
LOOKING AHEAD: The Gators aren’t lacking when it comes to offensive playmakers. Quarterback Feleipe Franks returns for his junior season after throwing for 2.457 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. Also back Florida are wide receivers Van Jefferson, Kadarrius Toney and Trevon Grimes. Jefferson caught 35 passes for 503 yards and six touchdowns. Another top returnee is running back Lamical Perine, who gained 826 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season. Mullen’s toughest task during the off-season was keeping defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in the fold. Grantham’s defense forced five turnovers and collected 10 sacks against Florida State and Michigan to close out the season. Defensive back CJ Henderson and defensive end Jabari Zuniga anchor the defense, mostly centered around a 3-4 scheme. Florida opens the season against Miami to open the 150th season of college football on Saturday.
CONFERENCE: The Gators are a preseason pick to finish second behind Georgia in the SEC East.
COACH QUOTE: “We need to take a huge step forward for us this year,” Mullen said. “I think we had a lot of success last year, but our consistency of performance is something I want to see us change to perform at a high level every single game, every single week, every single play, the consistency of our performance to continue to improve.”
Aug. 24 vs. Miami
Sept. 7 at Tennessee Martin
Sept. 14 at Kentucky
Sept. 21 Tennessee
Sept. 28 Towson
Oct. 5 Auburn
Oct. 12 at LSU
Oct. 19 at South Carolina
Nov. 2 vs. Georgia at Jacksonville
Nov. 9 Vanderbilt
Nov. 16 at Missouri
Nov. 30 Florida State
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.