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Saturday September 28, 2002Gators Win 41-34 Shootout With Kentucky

Gainesville, FL

In a see-saw affair that wasn't decided until the final play, the seventh-ranked Florida Gators held off a furious charge from the previously unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats, taking a 41-34 decision at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday.

The Gators (4-1, 2-0 SEC) led 19-0 at the half, then gave up four touchdowns in an eight minute span in the third quarter to fall behind 28-25, before taking the lead for good on a Rex Grossman to Taylor Jacobs touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in the quarter.

The Gators offense racked up 509 total yards as Grossman threw for 375 yards and two touchdown passes with nearly half of it going to Jacobs who had a career-high 12 catches for 183 yards and was on the receiving end of both scoring passes. Earnest Graham led the running attack with 102 yards on the ground for his seventh career 100-yard game to go along with a 1-yard touchdown, while Ran Carthon looked impressive and rushed for two scores.

With the Gators seemingly in command of the game with a 25-7 lead in the third quarter, Derek Abney returned a 100-yard kickoff return to begin a Wildcat push. On the next drive, Florida was unable to convert on a third-down situation and the Wildcats (4-1, 0-1 SEC) were able to get a hand on a Jason Hunter punt to put Kentucky in the redzone. Artose Pinner, the SEC's leading rusher, punched it in from 1-yard out to cut the Gator lead to 25-21.

The Gators fumbled on the next drive and Kentucky quickly went up top as Jared Lorenzen hit Aaron Boone with a 39-yard strike on the next play to give the Wildcats a short-lived lead, 28-25.

Grossman led the Gators back on the next drive with a 35-yard pass to Jacobs to put the Gators up 32-28. Junior Keiwan Ratliff extended the Gators' lead in the fourth quarter when he returned a Lorenzen pass for 62 yards touchdown.

The Wildcats simply would not go away, however, and with just over five minutes remaining, Abney became only the seventh man in NCAA history to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game, taking a punt back 49 yards to pull the Wildcats to within five points. Ratfliff intercepted the two-point conversion attempt, however, and returned it the distance to provide the final margin of victory as the Gators held on.

Florida makes its first trip to Oxford since 1994 next weekend, when they take on SEC West opponent Ole Miss at noon (ET) on CBS.

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