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September 24, 2011Morgan Newton dropped back to pass early in the second quarter of Kentucky's 48-10 loss to Florida on Saturday night in the shadows of his own goalposts.
He saw an open receiver. Lifted his right arm to throw.
Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic clubbed him, and the ball popped out. Jaye Howard, a 308-pound defensive tackle, did the rest. The fumble softly dropped into his waiting hands, and before he even knew what had happened, he ran two yards for a touchdown.
It didn't end there.
"Obviously, we're not very good," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "In football, you're only as good as your last time out. So we're not very good tonight. We weren't very good last week.
Freshman tailback Josh Clemons fumbled the ball with just over 8 minutes to go in the first quarter. Florida quarterback John Brantley threw a 45-yard touchdown on the next play, and Kentucky never threatened from there. No. 15 Florida (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) jumped out to a 21-point lead in the first quarter, extending a streak of 108 unanswered points in the first quarter against Kentucky (2-2, 0-1 SEC) that dated back to 2007.
That wasn't the only milestone the Gators passed.
Speedy tailback Jeff Demps found a massive hole in the left side of the line with 10:24 to go in the third quarter and jetted for an 84-yard touchdown, the sixth-longest in school history and the longest since NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was playing for the Gators.
Florida piled up 405 rushing yards on the night, led by Demps' 157 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Chris Rainey had 15 carries for 105 yards, and third-stringer Mike Gillislee had 84 yards and a 60-yard touchdown run in garbage time. As a team, the Gators averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
"It's totally unacceptable," defensive coordinator Minter said. "Everything starts with me, and I'll take the fall for the kids. But we've got to play a lot better if we're going to be competitive at all."
Kentucky's offense wasn't much better. Newton completed just 16-33 passes for 124 passing yards and had two interceptions to go along with his fumble. Four tailbacks combined to average just 3.2 yards per carry, and the offensive line surrendered four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
"It wasn't pretty," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.
It was just another beatdown in one of the nation's longest-running losing streaks. Florida has now beaten Kentucky 25 straight years. Entering the game, the average score in Florida's 24-consecutive wins over Kentucky was 42.25-17.7. After the game, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said it was the Wildcats' four turnovers holding them back.
Newton said the mood in the locker room was as good as could be expected after a loss. With a game against the No. 2 team in the country just a week away, he said, they'll only have a couple hours to sulk.
"Our kids are fighting, scratching and clawing," Phillips said. "We're just not playing very smart. They'll continue to fight. I believe in those guys, but we've got to get some things corrected. That begins with me."
Junior safety Martavius Neloms suffered a concussion in the first half and did not return. Clemons left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. He finished with three carries for seven yards and a nine-yard reception.
Senior linebacker Winston Guy suffered bruised ribs. Senior safety Mychal Bailey had a bruised forearm, but X-rays were negative.