Gators Snag Win in Twisted Drama

Florida doesn't quit in fourth-quarter comeback agaisnt the Wildcats....

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- As Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen's 260-pound body twirled, not even Florida cornerback Johnny Lamar could have imagined an ending this twisted.

Lamar, a former walk-on, never thought the Wildcats' senior actually would heave a pass in his direction – especially not while he was being taken down by linebacker Channing Crowder.

"I don't know why he didn't just take the sack," Lamar said.

Instead, the cornerback snagged an interception to set up a one-yard touchdown, topping off an 18-point comeback in the No. 25 Gators 24-21 win at Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium. The three-touchdown fourth quarter marks the biggest road rally in Florida history.

"I'd rather not make it like that," Coach Ron Zook said. "We stunk the house up in the first half. But we learned an awful lot today. Sometimes, you don't know how far you can stretch it until you've stretched it too far."

But at times Saturday, it seemed as if Zook's Gators had no chance of holding together. The players, the program and the coaches seemed destined for yet another disaster.

For starters, a loss would have knocked Florida from the Top 25 and buried the coaches in criticism. Not to mention, it would have ended a 16-game win streak against the Wildcats.

But a missed field goal from 50-yards deep with 44 seconds left to play ended any such thoughts.

"Everyone would have been dogging us," said offensive tackle Max Starks. "The media and the fans. We knew that. We knew we had to keep it together."

Trailing 21-3 at the start of the final quarter, first-time starter Chris Leak marched Florida downfield to two touchdown passes. The same quarterback who finished with two interceptions and three sacks sparked another week of hope for the Gators.

Leak finished 20-for-35 with 268 yards. His leading receiver, Carlos Perez, picked up 102 yards on 5 catches with two touchdowns. Making a concerted effort to throw more passes down field, Leak and Perez hooked up on a 69-yard completion – the longest of the season.

But it wasn't just the skills of the Gators that helped them out of the hole. If it hadn't have been for several key mistakes made by the Wildcats, Florida almost certainly would have lost.

"That's about as tough as it gets," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "We had opportunities to seal the deal and couldn't finish it. We need to finish the deal."

Kentucky's ill-fate began in the first quarter, when Derek Abney's 87-yard punt return was called back for a holding penalty on the opposite side of the field.

"That was a hug swing in field position," Brooks said.

Maybe even more critical, Florida picked up a second chance on fourth down when the Wildcats were nailed with a 15-yard penalty for having 12 men on the field.

"That was a huge play for us," Zook said. "That's why you work so hard on that. It went in our favor, thank God."

Instead of punting, the Gators finished the drive for a touchdown pass to Perez. So as Florida learned in Miami, when the Gators gave up 23-point lead, endurance can make the difference between winning and losing.

"In the first half, everyone was getting down," wide receiver Kelvin Kight said. "No one wanted it. But coach Zook came into the locker room and got everyone focused. He demanded our attention, and that's what made the difference."


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