Gainesville, FL - Back at home for the first time in three weeks, the Florida Gators (4-0, 3-0 SEC) shook off some early rust to run away from Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC), 38-0, giving the Gators their 26th straight win in the series.
For the Gators it was the first shutout since defeating UAB 39-0 in week two last year, and the first shutout of an SEC opponent since defeating Mississippi State 52-0 on Sept. 29, 2001.
The Gators now head into the bye week with a perfect 4-0 mark and time to heal up before a showdown with LSU on Oct. 6 at the Swamp.
Florida got its scoring from a 27-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis,1-yard touchdown runs from Mike Gillislee, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, a 26-yard interception return by Jaylen Watkins, a 19-yard reception by Quinton Dunbar.
Both teams started out slow but the Gators eventually started to click and it quickly turned into a one-sided affair.
After a pair of three-and-outs, the Gators were finally able to sustain something on their third drive, Driskel kept the ball on the first play and went around the right side for a 38-yard gain. A face mask penalty was tacked on giving the Gators a first-and-goal at the Kentucky 10. The drive stalled at the Kentucky 8-yard line, however, and the Gators settled for a 27-yard field goal from Sturgis to grab the game’s first points with 5:18 left in the first quarter. The Gators drive covered 49 yards on five plays.
Kentucky put together another drive into Gator territory, marching down to the UF 37 behind a pair of third and long conversions, one on a 12-yard run from George and one on a completion from Newton to La’Rod King. The drive ended at the Gators’ 37 when Craig McIntosh’s 54-yard attempt went wide left.
The Gators took advantage of the miss, marching 63 yards on 10 plays and taking 5:02 off the clock. Driskel connected with Frankie Hammond on a 24-yard pass over the middle to move the Gators into Kentucky territory. After a 5-yard completion to Hunter Joyer on third down gave the Gators a first-and-goal at the Kentucky 1-yard line, Gillislee carried it in for a score on the next play for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, giving the Gators a 10-0 lead with 12:04 left in the half.
The Wildcats got the ball back but facing a 3rd-and-7 Newton’s pass was intercepted by De’Ante Saunders and returned 29 yards to the Kentucky 23. The Gators were unable to take advantage, however. After penalties moved the Gators back to the 37, Driskel took a shot at the end zone and the result was his first interception of the year.
Capping a stretch of three straight possessions with a pick, Watkins stepped in front of the Wildcat receiver and read Newton’s pass perfectly, grabbing the interception and returning it 26 yards to give the Gators a 17-0 lead with 8:24 left in the half.
It was Watkins’ first career interception, his first touchdown and the Gators’ first interception return for a touchdown this season.
Kentucky once again marched down the field reaching the Gators’ 29-yard line before stalling. McIntosh missed his second field goal attempt of the day, pushing a kick wide right from 46 yards out. Kentucky would never get any closer the remainder of the day.
The Gators tried to add to their lead late in the second quarter. Facing third-and-15 Driskel hit Omarius Hines with a 52-yard pass play to the Kentucky 23. After the drive stalled Sturgis attempted his third field goal of the game but was unable to connect from 39 yards out.
Getting the ball back late in the half Driskel engineered an impressive drive, marching the Gators 76 yards in seven plays and using just 1:18 off the clock. Driskel hit Jordan Reed with a 34-yard pass over the middle and then a personal foul tacked on 15 more yards to the Kentucky 19-yard line. Moments later Driskel hit Dunbar with a 19-yard strike to close out the first half scoring.
As the second half began it was more of the same, as Driskel led the Gators on another long drive, this one, however a time-consuming one that ate up a large chunk of the third quarter. The Gators marched 72 yards on 15 plays and took 9:03 off the clock on the drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Driskel.
As the fourth quarter arrived and the game in hand, head coach Will Muschamp called on Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, as the sophomore saw his first action since the week one win over Bowling Green.
Brissett capped a 9-play, 47-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper with 6:47 left to make it 38-0.
Driskel finished the day 18-of-27 passing for 203 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while carrying the ball eight times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Florida had near perfect balance offensively, getting 403 yards of total offense with 203 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. The Gators dominated time of possession holding a 37:41-22:19 advantage.
Gillislee led the Gators in rushing with 56 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown while Matt Jones, in his most extended action of the season had 10 carries for 45 yards.
Defensively Florida held Kentucky to just 219 yards of offense, 159 yards on the ground and just 60 yards passing. Kentucky had just 60 yards of total offense in the second half.