By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 30, 2002
GAINESVILLE -- Upon further review, Florida's special teams performance against Kentucky was as bad as it looked during the game, but coach Ron Zook reiterated Sunday he's confident the problems can be corrected.
In the Gators' 41-34 win, Kentucky scored 27 points off special teams mistakes, including a bobbled snap on a punt, a blocked punt, a 49-yard punt return and a 100-yard kickoff return.
"I think any time you give up (27) points in special teams, that's pretty bad," Zook, said. "Obviously, it's the worst thing I've ever been around in terms of a complete meltdown. As I said earlier, there are a lot of things that are very, very easily corrected."
The units will focus on improving technique and mechanics this week in practice.
Zook said backup quarterback Ingle Martin could join the punting rotation this week when the Gators travel to Mississippi, and there may be other personnel changes. However, he said he will not take responsibility from special teams coach Jerry Odom.
TO CATCH A THIEF: About six members of the Kentucky coaching staff were robbed during Saturday's game, according to Kentucky officials. UK coach Guy Morriss and several assistants had their wallets and an unknown amount of cash stolen from the coaches' locker room at Florida Field during the game. Florida officials said the University Police Department is investigating and the Florida athletic department has offered to reimburse the coaches.
DEFENSIVE STAND: With the attention on special teams, the Florida defensive effort didn't receive much praise, but it didn't go unnoticed by Zook.
The Gators held the league's No. 1 offense to 268 yards and the Wildcats were 1-of-12 on third downs. Kentucky averaged 227.5 yards passing, but quarterback Jared Lorenzen had 180 against the Gators.
"I thought the defense played great," Zook said. "They really did. They rose to the occasion. Kentucky is a good offensive team. The fact that we were able to hold them to 268 yards was a great effort. I think, once again, we're improving and getting better and better and that's obviously what we want to see."
READY REBELS: Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe said the Rebels are excited to find out how well they'll do against the Gators.
"They've got lots of good players, so do we," he said. "That's why I can't wait to get out there and match up and see what happens."
The teams will meet for the first time since 1995, when Florida won 28-10 in Gainesville. The last meeting in Oxford, Miss., was a 38-14 Gators win in 1994. UF has won five of the past six meetings, dating to 1980.
THIS AND THAT: Rex Grossman moved into third place on the Florida career touchdown passes list with 63 and is sixth in career passing yards with 7,191 -- surpassing Doug Johnson in both categories. ... Kentucky receiver Derek Abney's 100-yard kickoff return was the first Florida had given up since 1998, when Kentucky's Craig Yeast returned one 100 yards. ... Saturday's win was Florida's 14th consecutive SEC home-opening win. The last time the Gators lost the first home conference game of the season was a 24-19 loss to Ole Miss in 1989. ... Florida has been outscored 58-29 in the third quarter this season ... Kentucky scored 28 points in the third quarter; the last time Florida gave up 28 or more points in a quarter was in the 1995 national championship game against Nebraska. ... Florida moved to No. 6 in the AP poll.