LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Even Florida's wins aren't coming easy
Johnny Lamar's 35-yard interception return set up Ron Carthon's
1-yard touchdown run with 3:15 remaining as the No. 25 Gators
rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Kentucky 24-21.
Florida, which beat Kentucky by scores like 73-17 and 65-0 under former coach Steve Spurrier, trailed the Wildcats in the third quarter last season before winning 41-34 in Ron Zook's first year as coach.
"As I told our football team, I'd rather not make it like
that," Zook said. "We learned an awful lot today, though. Once
again, we've said we're a team that's going to get better each
game, and I think we'll continue to get better."
Trailing 21-3 after three quarters, Florida (3-2, 1-1
Southeastern Conference) scored three touchdowns in the fourth to
complete the biggest road comeback in school history. Florida's
largest previous road rally was from 17 points behind in a 1993 win
at South Carolina.
Kentucky's Taylor Begley missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt
with 44 seconds left that could have forced overtime. The Wildcats
(2-3, 0-2) haven't defeated a ranked team at home since 1999 and
hadn't even led Florida at halftime since 1988.
But it appeared for most of the game that they would pull off
the upset. Then came the fourth quarter as the Gators beat Kentucky
for the 17th straight time and avoided falling below .500 for the
first time in 11 seasons.
"That's about as tough as it gets," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks
said. "It was a game that I thought we did a lot of good things in
and had an opportunity, obviously, to seal the deal and couldn't
Florida freshman Chris Leak, making his first career start,
completed 20 of 35 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Carlos
Perez caught five passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
A Kentucky penalty on a punt kept alive Florida's first
touchdown drive, and the Gators scored on the first play of the
fourth quarter on a 3-yard pass from Leak to Perez. The 2-point
conversion failed and the Gators still trailed 21-9.
Florida got the ball back but Leak threw his second interception
of the game with 9:49 left. Kentucky's offense stalled after making
one first down and Keiwan Ratliff returned a punt 25 yards to
Then on a fourth-and-3, Leak hit Perez for a 10-yard score to
make it 21-16 with 4:46 to play.
On Kentucky's next series, Channing Crowder was about to sack
Jared Lorenzen when Lorenzen threw an ill-advised pass that Lamar
intercepted and returned to the 1 to set up Carthon's winning
"I was very surprised he threw it out of there," Lamar said of
Lorenzen. "If anything, I thought he would try to throw it out of
bounds, which he was probably trying to do, but he got spun around.
I don't know why he just didn't take the sack."
Leak's pass to Kelvin Kight on the 2-point conversion made it
Lorenzen completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards and threw two
interceptions. Arliss Beach, making his first career start, carried
18 times for 47 yards and scored all three Kentucky touchdowns.
The Wildcats scored on their opening drive for the first time
this season, converting three third downs before getting into the
end zone on Beach's 1-yard run.
A holding penalty wiped out an 86-yard punt return for a
touchdown by Derek Abney later in the first quarter, but the
Wildcats went ahead 14-0 on Beach's second 1-yard score.
A 69-yard pass from Leak to Perez set up Florida's only
first-half score, a 42-yard Matt Leach field goal. Besides that
pass, the Gators only managed 86 yards of offense in the half.
Abney ran 42 yards on a reverse to the Florida 6 to set up
Kentucky's final touchdown, a 2-yard run by Beach late in the third
"I'd be hardpressed to find (as difficult) a situation that
seniors anywhere else have been through," Abney said. "We've been
through so much stuff here and we just want a break."