Swamped

Arkansas receiver Carlos Ousley sat frozen in front of his locker minutes after another furious comeback fell painfully short.

Teammate Jeb Huckeba pondered the Hogs' second missed opportunity against Florida, placing the blame on poor play in the first half. Receiver Steven Harris glanced across the room and asked quarterback Matt Jones about the probability of sustaining two heart-breaking losses to the Gators.

"It's got to be very small," said Harris, answering his own question.

But it happened to the Hogs twice within the past year.

Once again, Arkansas' late rally against No. 16 Florida fell a few plays short during its 45-30 loss in front of 90,014 fans in hot and humid Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Hogs (3-2, 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) stumbled to a 31-point deficit, but pulled within 38-30 before linebacker Channing Crowder dashed Arkansas' hopes by intercepting a Jones pass with 4 minutes, 24 seconds left.

The finish was eerily reminiscent of last season's 33-28 loss in Fayetteville, when the Gators' 26-point lead evaporated behind a flurry of fourth-quarter Arkansas touchdowns. Florida held on after an interception was wiped out by a late penalty on former Hogs safety Tony Bua.

Saturday, the Gators walked out of The Swamp breathing another sigh of relief.

"It's always creepy when you see something like that," said Florida safety Cory Bailey. "You look at that game and never imagine that something like that would happen coming out of halftime."

But Florida (3-1, 2-1), which led 35-7 at the break, should've seen it coming after last season's nail-biter.

The Hogs kicked off their rally when tailback DeCori Birmingham scored a 12-yard touchdown to cut Florida's lead it 38-14 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter. Jones outran the Gators for a 25-yard touchdown and hit Birmingham for a two-point conversion to make it 38-22 four minutes later.

The Hogs added another score when Jones found freshman receiver Marcus Monk for a 7-yard touchdown. The two hooked up for another two-point play and Arkansas trailed 38-30 with 6:46 left.

"We're fixing to win this game. I just feel it," Huckeba said on the sideline. "We had so much momentum and they weren't playing as well. They were going three-and-out and the offense was scoring.

"We all felt like we were going to win. I know I did."

Arkansas, which forced Florida to go three-and-out on three consecutive possessions had plenty of time to score after getting the ball back a minute later.

Jones found receiver Cedric Washington for a seven-yard gain then scrambled for eight on the next play to the Gators' 42. A screen pass to Birmingham resulted in a two-yard loss and the Hogs stared at second-and-12 from their 40.

Jones flipped a pass to Ousley near midfield, but the ball was behind him. The junior reached his left hand back to make a play. It deflected off Ousley, landed in Crowder's arms and the sophomore raced 22 yards to the Arkansas 26.

"We were sitting back in Cover 2 and their player came across and I just did my job," said Crowder, who was told by Florida linebackers coach Bill Miller to drop straight back and the ball would come his way. "The ball got tipped right into my stomach and I took off running."

Florida quarterback Chris Leak eventually hit Dallas Baker for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Gators a 45-30 lead with 1:46 left.

Arkansas could only blame a slow start and several miscues, something coach Houston Nutt said was "exactly what we didn't want to happen." It was responsible for the Hogs' third loss in their past eight SEC road games.

Arkansas made three special teams mistakes, missed numerous tackles and was held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season. Florida didn't gain a first down on its first three possessions, but scored touchdowns on its next five.

Leak picked apart Arkansas' hobbled secondary, throwing for a career-high 322 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Gators were criticized for their inefficiency during the previous weekend's 20-3 home win against Kentucky, but piled up points on big plays against the Hogs.

Receiver Andre Caldwell gave the Gators a 14-0 lead, zipping through missed tackles for a 61-yard score on a reverse. Baker beat reserve safety Randy Kelly on Florida's next possession for a 34-yard score.

Tailback Ciatrick Fason scored his second touchdown on a 3-yard plunge, five plays after Jones threw an interception at the Hogs' 24. The Gators notched one more score before halftime, when Jemalle Cornelius beat cornerback Michael Coe for a 48-yard catch with 45 seconds left.

"Any team is going to hit a big play," said Arkansas strong safety Lerinezo Robinson. "When you get two or three in a row, it kind of takes your confidence down and you get upset and you want to start blaming other people."

Florida scored 35 points on 33 plays in the first half. The Gators also piled up 327 yards in the half (90 rushing, 237 passing).

"You can't do that against a great team, give them 35 in the first half," Ousley said. "It's just tough to come back from."

But Arkansas did its best, rallying in the locker room at halftime.

Nutt said his team refused to "tuck (its) tail and run" and stepped out of the locker room intent to "stand up and fight."

The Razorbacks outscored Florida 23-10 in the second half and limited the Gators to 113 yards after the break. Jones threw a career-high three interceptions, but accumulated 320 yards of offense (252 passing, 68 rushing). Harris, a Florida native, caught 6 passes for 114 yards and Monk contributed 5 for 52 yards and touchdown.

It wasn't enough for Arkansas, which has a week off before traveling to No. 8 Auburn on Oct. 16.

"We talked about putting it all on the line and playing as hard as you can like a Razorback's supposed to," Nutt said. "I tell you what, just an awesome effort.

"But way too little too late. You can't do that against a good team."

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