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Graham is getting it in gear

Renewed focus in the offseason pays off right away for the senior TB, to the tune of 182 yards.

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- Last week, tailbacks Earnest Graham and Ran Carthon took something other than their typical car ride.

"We were riding in the car going to get some lunch," Carthon said, "and he looked at me and he was like, "This is my senior year. I refuse to lose and I just got to take it upon myself to do what I got to do to make this team click.' "

Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against Alabama-Birmingham, Graham showed the same determination he had in the car with Carthon.

Graham rushed for a career-high 182 yards on 13 carries, 14 yards a carry, and scored two touchdowns. "I haven't run that way since high school," Graham said. "I felt good out there. I felt real good."

Graham's best run came in the third quarter, a 63-yarder that led to a Matt Leach field goal. He also had runs of 48 and 22 yards.

In a more balanced offense than former coach Steve Spurrier's, Graham rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. It was his sixth time with at least 100 yards in a game.

"Earnest did a hell of a job," Carthon said. "This is what Earnest has been preparing for all summer. Earnest has done some things he's never done in the past. He just really took it upon himself to make himself better this year."

Before Saturday, Florida never had one player with 200 yards receiving and another with 150 rushing in the same game. Taylor Jacobs had 246 yards receiving to set the school mark.

"It was like a two-three punch," UAB coach Watson Brown said. "They are really great at running the ball. I do not see weakness in any of them. They are really good tight ends, good running backs and are going to be hard to defend because they are two-dimensional. They can run better than I have ever seen."

UAB hadn't allowed a player to rush for 100 yards in 25 consecutive games. The last to do so was Louisville's Frank Moreau when he ran for 128 Oct. 30, 1999.

In that period, seven teams rushed for 100-plus yards against UAB.

"That was one of our personal goals for the game ... to have someone rush for over 100 yards and go out and show people that we can really run with the ball and be both (passing and running) teams," Graham said.

Graham was modest about the performance perhaps because of 2001 when the games he missed, against Auburn and Tennessee, were the only games Florida lost.

Or, perhaps he was already thinking about No. 1 Miami, the team UF hosts Saturday.

"We did well, but we got a game this week," Graham said. "We got to attack it the same any other week and try to improve."

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