If you’re from the Florida swamplands, you probably should know: never wake a sleeping gator.
Jojo Kemp probably should have known that. After all, the Kentucky running back is from DeLand, Fla., a city on the panhandle’s east coast. The sophomore is looking forward to returning to his home state this weekend, when him and his teammates will travel to Gainesville to play the Florida Gators.
In fact, Kemp was so excited to play back home that he got into some good-natured trash-talking.
“A couple of my (high school) teammates actually went to Florida, so I’m familiar with a lot of those guys,” Kemp said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces.”
Uh-oh. Remember that advice about not waking the gator?
Not a good idea.
Kemp’s winning proclamation would be quite the grandiose talk if the Wildcats were to somehow beat the Gators this weekend.
After all, this series has been one-sided for almost two decades.
Seriously. Florida has defeated Kentucky in every game its played since November 15, 1986. That was so long ago that Miami’s Vinny Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy and Penn State’s Joe Paterno was winning a national championship.
Remember too that these teams play each other twice a year.
So that’s 27 consecutive wins for Florida’s blue-and-orange squad.
JoJo Kemp might only be 5-foot-10, but the Kentucky sophomore sure isn’t afraid to talk big.
Most coaches want their players to play confident. But maybe not this confident.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said he was “furious” Wednesday when he heard his leading rusher from a year ago running his mouth.
““The thing is – I was outraged: I talked to him about it,” Stoops said.
Kemp told Stoops, somewhat fairly, that he was just trying to give some good-natured ribbing to his former teammates back home.
“But like I told him yesterday,’ You think they’re gonna hear all that?” Stoops said. “They’re gonna hear the last five seconds of what you said.’ And I know thte great pride of the players in that locker room at Florida.”
A chink in the armor?
Maybe Kemp wasn’t so crazy to think his team could challenge the Gators, even in their raucous home stadium known affectionately as “The Swamp.”
After all, Florida may have whipped Eastern Michigan, a directional school, in a 65-0 season-opening beating, but the Gators did not look at all good last season. Florida had its worst season since 1979, losing seven straight games – including one against Georgia Southern – to go 4-8.
Then again, Florida still managed to beat Kentucky 24-7 in that slog of a season.
Either way, Kemp will be a moving target come Saturday.