GAINESVILLE (AP) — Jeff Driskel accounted for two touchdowns, helping No. 14 Florida beat Kentucky 38-0 Saturday and extend its winning streak to 26 in the series.
The Gators (4-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) also recorded their first shutout in conference play since a 52-0 victory against Mississippi State in 2001.
Florida struggled early in the game, not a great sign with No. 2 LSU up next in two weeks. The slow start also was a rarity against the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1). The Gators had outscored Kentucky 94-3 in the first quarter in the last four meetings, essentially sealing games before some fans settled into their seats.
It took a little longer Saturday.
The Gators scored three times in the second quarter, enough to put Kentucky away and extend the nation’s longest winning streak in a current series between two teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Wildcats haven’t beaten Florida since 1986 and haven’t won in Gainesville since 1979.
They hardly had a chance in this one.
Kentucky, which entered the game with the league’s top passing attack, played without quarterback Maxwell Smith. He sat out with a shoulder injury. Backup Morgan Newton missed open receivers early and often, hurting Kentucky’s chance at an upset.
After completing just 7 of 21 passes for 48 yards with three interceptions, he was benched in favor of Jalen Whitlow in the fourth.
De’Ante Saunders, Jaylen Watkins and Michael Taylor each picked off passes from Newton in the decisive second quarter.
The Gators, though, only turned one of them into points.
Saunders intercepted a pass that sailed over running back Jonathan George’s head. Florida’s Jeff Driskel tried to find Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone two plays later, but Martavius Neloms came down with the high throw.
Watkins kept the offense on the sideline after his pick. He anticipated Newton’s pass in the flat, made the interception and returned it 26 yards for a 17-0 lead.
Florida could have turned Taylor’s pick into points, but coach Will Muschamp decided to have his offense run a play with no timeouts and 16 seconds remaining in the half. The Gators could have attempted a 46-yard field goal — well within Caleb Sturgis’ range — but opted to try to get closer.
Driskel got sacked, allowing the clock to run out.
Driskel completed 18 of 27 passes for 203 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran eight times for 35 yards and a score.
Driskel hooked up with Dunbar for a 19-yard TD pass in the second quarter and plunged across the goal line for a 1-yard sneak in the third as the Gators built a 31-0 lead.
Backup Jacoby Brissett played most of the fourth. His 1-yard sneak make it 38-0 in the fourth.
Mike Gillislee ran 13 times for 56 yards before giving way to Matt Jones and Mack Brown.
Florida’s defense gave up chunks of yards early, but settled down and pretty much shut Kentucky down late.
Aiding the shutout, Kentucky’s Craig McIntosh missed two field goals. He was wide left on a 54-yarder in the first and wide right from 46 yards out in the second.
Florida played without versatile fullback Trey Burton, who missed the game with back spasms. He woke up Friday with spasms and couldn’t get them under control before the game.
The Gators also were without defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb) and cornerback Cody Riggs (foot). Easley and Jenkins are expected to play against the Tigers following a bye week.