GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Backup cornerback Reggie Lewis had been
targeted, picked on and consistently abused for most of the night.
By the second overtime, he did something about it.
Lewis stepped in front of Jay Cutler's first pass in the extra
period and gave No. 13 Florida a 49-42 victory over pesky
Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Lewis may have saved his reputation. He also might have saved
"It felt great," said Lewis, a 5-foot-10 junior who moved from
receiver to defense last spring. "Our season was on the line. I
knew I had to make a play somehow, someway."
The Gators certainly needed a savior to extend their winning
streak over Vandy to 15 games.
Cutler threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns, including two in
the final 2:17 of regulation to send the game into overtime.
"We are very disappointed," Commodores coach Bobby Johnson
said. "We had an opportunity to win the football game and we
didn't take advantage of it."
Vanderbilt and Florida exchanged touchdowns in the first
overtime. Jeff Jennings ran 8 yards for a score for the Commodores,
then Chris Leak answered with a 9-yard TD pass to Chad Jackson.
Jemalle Cornelius made a leaping, 16-yard touchdown catch in the
back of the end zone that put the Gators ahead in the second
"I just threw the ball up and gave him a chance," Leak said.
"He did a heck of a job making a play."
Cutler -- whose interception and fumble in regulation led to 14
points for the Gators -- tried to throw an out pass on the ensuing
play. But Lewis stepped in front of the receiver and picked it off.
"We didn't play great, but we did what we had to do to win,"
Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "A win is a win."
Florida (7-2, 5-2) now can win the Eastern Division and advance
to the conference title game in Atlanta by beating South Carolina
next week and having No. 11 Georgia lose either of its final league
games against Auburn and Kentucky.
Vanderbilt (4-5, 2-4) needs to beat Kentucky and Tennessee to
become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.
Leak finished 32-of-41 for 257 yards with three touchdowns. He
also ran for a career-high 67 yards and two scores -- though most of
it came on broken-down passing plays and not running the option.
"He had probably the best running game of his career," Meyer
said. "We did a little more to get him on the edge. He did great
for us tonight."
But Cutler was clearly the better quarterback Saturday night --
doing more with less surrounding talent. He finished 28-of-42 with
"Jay Cutler is a big-time quarterback," Meyer said. "That's
an NFL quarterback."
The Gators seemingly had the game wrapped up with 4:11 to play
when Markus Manson's 2-yard TD run made it 35-21.
Cutler, however, had other plans. He directed a 61-yard scoring
drive in 1:54 and capped it with a 2-yard pass to George Smith with
2:17 to play.
Andrew Pace recovered the onside kick for Vandy, and Cutler went
to work again. He sliced up Florida's secondary -- most of it
against Lewis, who replaced injured starter Vernell Brown -- and
found Earl Bennett wide open in the end zone for a 6-yard score
with 54 seconds remaining.
Johnson was ready to go for a 2-point conversion, but a
celebration penalty against Bennett forced the Commodores to kick
the extra point. Johnson called the penalty "stupid."
The Gators managed to regroup in overtime.
Florida might not have had a lead had it not been for Cutler's
two turnovers in regulation.
He had a pass bounce off Marlon White's chest in the first
quarter and picked off by Brown, who later broke his left leg on a
The Gators scored on the ensuing possession to make it 14-7 in
the second quarter.
Cutler botched a snap on Vandy's second play of the third
quarter, and two plays later, Chad Jackson scored on an end around
from 9 yards out to make it 21-14.
But Cutler's biggest gaffe came in overtime -- trying once again
to pick on Lewis.
"It's unfortunate that I made the mistake," Cutler said. "I
let the team down."
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