Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Victory lifts Gators to top of wild East division

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Amid defeat, controversy and tragedy, Urban Meyer needed a motivational tool to get the Gators going again.

He found a phone.

UF's 45-37 win at Kentucky on Saturday afternoon didn't start with a kickoff at 3:34.

The process began a week earlier, as Meyer spent an hour dialing up his team after the Wildcats upset top-ranked LSU.

Meyer, a psychology degree holder, made sure of two things: that players were living the right way and that they realized, despite back-to-back losses, the team had something to play for.

"Any time those kids understand that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, they'll go to the wall for you," Meyer said.

The coach believed it too.

"He was jacked up after the (LSU-Kentucky) game," said sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow, who went 18-of-26 through the air for 256 yards and four touchdowns to add to his sterling Heisman Trophy resume. "This has been a crazy season with all that has happened. Coach's excitement is very contagious."

Meyer's method was successful, as UF outgunned Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium, spinning the Southeastern Conference picture farther out of whack.

The No. 9 Gators (5-2, 3-2 SEC) and No. 14 Wildcats (6-2, 2-2 SEC) sit among five teams in the SEC East with two conference losses battling for one spot in the conference title game.

After all that has happened in the last few weeks, the Gators have one simple mission.

Win out and go to Atlanta.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

"Yes, it's wide open," Meyer said. "It was wide open last week. Just take care of business."

Feel-good underdog Kentucky 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. "We didn't do enough in critical situations to get the victory."

Instead, UF won it in the fourth quarter with a refreshing display of confidence that bore no resemblance to its shaky late game play in losses to LSU and Auburn.

Kentucky cut the lead to 38-31 with 3:35 left on Andre' Woodson's fourth touchdown pass.

The Gators, who had gone conservative with Tebow runs to kill the clock earlier this year, scrapped the usual plan and took some chances on the ensuing drive.

Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen called deep passes four times.

The second try yielded a 40-yard bomb from Tebow to Percy Harvin, moving the ball to the Kentucky 2-yard line with 1:48 left.

Tebow snuck into the end zone on the next play for his fifth score to give UF an insurmountable 45-31 edge.

"I just knew that with our offense we could go out there and finish tonight," Tebow said.

Kentucky added a score on the final play of the game as Woodson padded his stats.

Woodson finished with 415 passing yards and five touchdowns, but he was also sacked six times.

Down 21-10 at the half, he cut the lead to 7 points in both the third and fourth quarters, but the Gators kept answering the call and avoided a midseason meltdown.

"Everybody wants to ask the question, boy you guys are down," Meyer said. "No, man, we're right in the middle of the SEC.

"There's some hard times out there, but they ain't here. We're fine. We're going."

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.