Gators' win shakes up standings
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Nobody stormed the field at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night, but the result still shook the college football landscape and left lasting ramifications.
Florida topped host Kentucky 45-37, spinning the SEC and national championship pictures farther out of whack.
The No. 14 Gators (5-2, 3-2 SEC) and No. 8 Wildcats (6-2, 2-2 SEC) sit among five teams in the SEC East with two conference losses.
Kentucky became the fourth top-ten team to lose this weekend, with a fifth (LSU) on the ropes as of late Saturday night.
With Tennessee's loss to Alabama, Florida controls its own destiny in the race to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game heading into next Saturday's showdown with Georgia.
"You go look at these young guys in our locker room, and if you're worrying about anything other than going o Jacksonville next weekend against Georgia, then we're mistaken," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "Yes, it's wide open, it was wide open last week; who beat who, just take care of your business. We've got a tough game and a great rivalry next week."
Kentucky, fresh off an upset of then-top-ranked LSU, fell back into its doormat role against the Gators, losing a 21st straight meeting between the teams.
"They were probably fresher than we were," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. But we didn't do enough in critical situations to get the victory."
Instead, Florida won the game in the fourth quarter after shaky late play in losses to LSU and Auburn in its last two games.
Kentucky cut the lead to 38-31 with 3:35 left on Andre' Woodson's fourth of five touchdown passes.
Florida, which had gone conservative with Tim Tebow runs late in games earlier this year, scrapped the usual game plan and took some chances on the ensuing drive.
Twice offensive coordinator Dan Mullen called deep passes.
The second try yielded a 40-yard pass from Tebow to Percy Harvin, moving it to the Kentucky 2-yard line with 1:48 left.
Mullen had reservations about calling such a risky play with a late lead, but he had some help in making the decision.
"Coach Meyer got in my ear," Mullen said. "He says, 'Hey, let's take the shot right here.' I guess if the head coach said to do it, you're ok."
Tebow would sneak into the end zone on the next play for his fifth total touchdown of the game to give Florida an insurmountable 45-31 advantage.
"I just knew that with our offense we could go out there and finish tonight," said Tebow, who went 18-of-26 through the air for 256 yards and four passing touchdowns.
Kentucky added a score on the final play of the game as Woodson padded his stats.
Kentucky's Heisman Trophy candidate set career highs of 35 completions on 50 attempts.
Woodson finished with 415 passing yards and five touchdowns, but he was also sacked six times.
Down 21-10 at the half, he brought Kentucky to within 7 points of Florida in both the third and fourth quarters, but the Gators kept answering.
"We usually do a great job of getting in the position to win the game in the second half," Woodson said. "We were able to move the ball against Florida's defensive schemes. Unfortunately it was too late to get points on the board."
Play of the Game: Tebow's 40-yard pass to Harvin with 1:48 left in the game. All of the record 71,024 fans in attendance at Commonwealth Stadium must have been expecting conservative runs for Florida to kill the clock. Instead, Harvin beat Marcus McClinton deep and hauled in a smoothly thrown ball from Tebow inside the 10 to clinch the game.
Player of the Game: Tebow. He won the battle of Heisman Trophy contending quarterbacks despite having an inferior statistical night. Tebow ought to be the leading candidate for the Heisman after outdueling Woodson.
Up Next: Florida travels to Jacksonville for its annual showdown with Georgia on Saturday. Kentucky will host Mississippi State.