Gators Working Out Wrinkles

FAYETTEVILLE -- Florida coach Ron Zook wasn't exactly turning cart wheels about the Gators' season-high 523 yards of offense in their 20-3 win against Kentucky.

"Yeah that's good, but you know what? We did not get in (the end zone) when we had to," Zook said. "Some of it was our fault with penalties and so forth. Our guys realize we still have a lot of work to do."

Florida outperformed Kentucky in yards (523-207), first downs (26-10) and time of possession (a nearly eight-minute advantage), but could only manage 20 points thanks to a deluge of mistakes inside the red zone.

Three first-half drives inside the Kentucky 25 resulted in just 3 points thanks to two Chris Leak interceptions, one from the Kentucky 3 just before halftime to kill a 15-play, 71-yard drive, and a holding penalty .

The offensive misfires continued after halftime as Florida got inside the Kentucky 10 three times and again came away with just 3 points.

A 65-yard completion to the 7 was followed by three yards on three plays and a field goal.

Florida recovered a fumble at the Wildcat 21, went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3 and came up a yard short.

Ceatrick Fason, who scored Florida's first touchdown on a 46-yard run following an interception at the Wildcat 46, rushed 27 yards to the 5, but an illegal block at the end of the play brought it back 10 yards. Then Florida lost four yards, got a personal foul and ended up missing a 47-yard field goal.

The next Gator drive covered 14 plays, 50 yards and 5 minutes, but Kentucky blocked Matt Leach's fourth field goal attempt of the day.

Both Gator touchdowns were set up by prime field position from the defense and special teams. Fason's run was cued by the interception and his second score came on a seven-yard fade route made possible by a 43-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter.

The mistakes had Zook scratching his head.

In the Gators first two games against Eastern Michigan and Tennessee, Florida had two turnovers and 13 penalties.

Against Kentucky, the Gators had three turnovers and 11 penalties.

"The penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot (is) something we haven't done to this point," he said. "You get down there (in the red zone) and that's where the intensity has to turn up. I tell our guys this all the time.

"There is a fine line between the intensity level of hitting on all cylinders and not. For whatever reason, we got out of our rhythm down there and (Kentucky) did some really nice things as well. We just weren't as efficient down there as we needed to be."

Florida is led by Leak in his second year as a starter after taking the job as a true freshman in 2003 and becoming the first Gator quarterback to lead three straight wins against ranked teams on the road, including at then-No. 11 Arkansas last October.

Leak was 25 of 43 against Kentucky for 261 yards and a touchdown against 3 interceptions.

Fason, a junior, had a 75-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass in Florida's 33-28 win in Fayetteville.

He had a career-high 210 yards on 31 carries, which should concern an Arkansas defense that allowed Alabama to rush for 271 yards led by Ray Hudson's 170.

Florida, unlike Alabama, also has a dynamic receiving group led by O.J. Small (18 catches, 204 yards, 2 TDs) and Andre Caldwell (13 catches, 171 yards), the younger brother of former Gator star receiver Reche Caldwell.

"We felt like offensively we'd be vastly improved and I think we are improved," Zook said. "We're not there yet where we need to be.

"Even though there were a lot of things we can improve from (Kentucky), there were some things we improved on from the Tennessee game."

Defensively, Florida is replacing eight starters and the young secondary is allowing 189 yards per game, the eighth-best in the SEC.

Zook felt the unit improved against Kentucky allowing just 134 passing on 17 of 35 attempts by Shane Boyd.

"We said our secondary would get better as the year progressed," Zook said. "I think the secondary played much better this week than they did last week."

Florida, like many schools in the southeast, continues to be affected by the constant stream of hurricanes ravaging the Sunshine State.

The Gators' season-opener against Middle Tennessee State Sept. 4 was moved to Florida's open date Oct. 16 because of Hurricane Charley.

The latest, Hurricane Jeanne, forced the game against Kentucky to be moved up to an 10 a.m. kickoff and canceled class at UF on Monday.

Florida hasn't had a standard game-week preparation all season, Zook said.

"I'm not sure what normal is anymore," he said. "It's not going to be normal (this week) because there's no school (Monday). It will be a change in the schedule for what we do. Our guys are resilient. They do what they have to do. They don't complain."

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