Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: September 21, 10:21 AM ET
Really not so special
By Michael DiRocco
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Expect Kentucky coach Joker Phillips to hold his breath every time the Wildcats line up to punt or try a field goal against Florida.
And he won't be exhaling until after he sees the ball soaring skyward.
It's a natural reaction, considering what the Gators have done to the Wildcats in the past six seasons. Florida has blocked six kicks (four punts and two field goals) against Kentucky since 2006, turning all but one of them into points and keying the Gators' easy victories in the Southeastern Conference series.
"It has hurt us," Phillips said of the special teams mistakes.
There's an understatement. One of the blocks was returned for a touchdown, and UF scored touchdowns on the ensuing possession on four others. Several of them came early in the game and started the Gators rolling -- and devastated the Wildcats.
"It's really big [for momentum]," Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "A lot of times when you're doing that [blocking a punt] you're really changing field position. When you get a chance to block a kick, like a PAT or a field-goal attempt, where you're taking points off the board, those are big momentum-changers in ballgames."
Ryan Smith got the block party started in 2006 when he blocked a punt. UF ended up turning over the ball on downs, which was the only time the Gators failed to get points.
UF didn't block a kick in the 2007 game but did block three in 2008. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps blocked punts on Kentucky's first two possessions and Joe Haden blocked a field goal.
Rainey blocked a punt and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown in 2009 and Omar Hunter blocked a field goal in 2010.
"All the blocks and that kind of stuff through the years here has been terrific and certainly a momentum changer," Quinn said.
Florida didn't block a kick against Kentucky in last season's meeting in Lexington, Ky., but the Gators have blocked six kicks in Will Muschamp's first 16 games as head coach. They haven't gotten one yet this season, although they were close in the opener against Bowling Green.
"Matt Elam barely missed it," Muschamp said. "I mean, got his hand right there and was really close."
Kentucky hasn't had a kick blocked this season -- yet.
"We're playing really good on special teams," Phillips said.
But he'll still be holding his breath Saturday.