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Gator 'just catches' it to set up winning TD

ANTONYA ENGLISH and BRIAN SHAFFER
Published September 28, 2003

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When he saw the ball coming his way, Florida cornerback Johnny Lamar became "like a deer in the headlights."

Teammate Channing Crowder had Jared Lorenzen nearly wrapped up for a sack. The next thing Lamar knew, he had Lorenzen's pass in his hands and he was headed for the end zone. Lamar didn't quite make it, but his 35-yard interception return set up the winning touchdown and added Lamar to Florida folklore.

"When I saw the ball, I was thinking, "Hey, this is an opportunity for me to finally score in a big game where we're down,"' Lamar said. "Unfortunately, I was knocked out at the 1. But I made every effort to get in there. When it came, I was thinking just catch the ball."

Two plays later, Ran Carthon scored on a 1-yard run.

MOVING UP: With 215 yards, Lorenzen passed former Florida quarterback Shane Matthews for fourth all-time in the SEC in total offense.

One week ago, Lorenzen passed ex-Gator Rex Grossman and now trails Danny Wuerffel (Florida), Eric Zeier (Georgia) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee). Lorenzen has 9,305.

His best game against the Gators came as a freshman, when he completed 35 of 59 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns in a 59-31 loss in Gainesville. Saturday, Lorenzen was 18-of-27 for 179 yards. His interception in the third quarter broke a string of 75 passes without one.

"I give him all the credit," Florida free safety Daryl Dixon said. "He's a great quarterback."

MUCH RESPECT: As Kentucky receiver/return specialist Derek Abney walked off the field in tears after the Wildcats' 24-21 loss, Florida defensive coach Charlie Strong and cornerback Keiwan Ratliff made a point to find him.

"That guy's a heck of a player," Strong said after hugging Abney and talking to him for a few moments.

Added Ratliff: "I'll see you on the next level some day."

A GATOR FIRST: Kentucky's first-quarter 1-yard touchdown run by Arliss Beach marked the first time this season it scored on its first possession. The 43-yard drive was set up by a three-and-out by the Gators and a punt from the 10.

STREAK ENDS: Florida offensive tackle Max Starks did not start after battling a left ankle sprain all week, ending a streak of 28 starts. But Starks, with his ankle heavily taped, rejoined his linemates during Florida's second drive of the game and alternated at right and left tackle.

ALMOST DEJA VU: A year after Abney torched Florida's special teams for two returns for touchdowns in Gainesville, he nearly did it again during the first quarter Saturday. Eric Wilbur outkicked his coverage on a 51-yard line drive punt that Abney returned 87 yards for an apparent touchdown. But a holding penalty negated it, ultimately a 77-yard penalty.

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Dwright Jackson separated his shoulder late. He will be evaluated today. Left tackle Mo Mitchell played despite back spasms.

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