Sunday, October 19, 2003
Florida heads into off week on a roll
LITTLE ROCK -- Florida must have looked like easy pickings
to LSU and Arkansas two weeks ago.
The Gators were stumbling with a 1-2 start in the Southeastern
Conference, and they were fortunate Kentucky handed them a victory.
Florida has jumped back into the SEC's Eastern Division race by
keeping up its winning ways under Ron Zook on the road, capping
back-to-back victories with a 33-28 win over the Razorbacks on
The Gators (5-3, 3-2 SEC) did it with defense, holding Arkansas
(4-2, 1-2) to one touchdown before a 21-point fourth quarter gave
Florida a scare. Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff made three
interceptions, and the defense forced seven punts.
"Our defense came up with big plays," said Zook, who is now
6-1 in SEC road games as Florida's coach. "They really had to
against Arkansas because they have such a great offense."
Ratliff, who had two interceptions in the 19-7 win over LSU, was
the catalyst for Florida's offense.
He picked off two Matt Jones passes and one from Ryan Sorahan
that he returned 44 yards for Florida's final touchdown with 8:46
left in the game. His first two interceptions set up 10 points.
"Keiwan is really steady right now," Zook said. "He's
preparing harder and harder every week. He knows what people are
going to do to him. He's playing and thinking at the same time."
Ratliff's teammates have enjoyed watching the senior from
Columbus, Ohio, more than double his career interception total in
two weeks. With five in the past two weeks, he now has six this
year and nine for his career.
"He is blowing up at the right time for this team," free
safety Daryl Dixon said. "He has played great the last two weeks
against top 10 LSU and top 15 Arkansas. He doesn't wait on the ball
to come to him, he just goes out and gets it himself."
Florida, which moved back into The Associated Press poll at No.
25 following its two road wins, has a week off to prepare for No. 4
Georgia. A win in that game would put the Gators into a tie with
the Bulldogs and maybe Tennessee for the Eastern Division title.
The Volunteers play at Alabama this week.
Florida closes the conference schedule with Vanderbilt and South
Carolina before a home game with No. 6 Florida State to finish the
"There's still a lot of football to be played this year," Zook
said. "Our guys deserve a break. They need to let their heads
clear this week and not even think about football."
The Gators need only look at Arkansas to see how an off week can
kill momentum. The Razorbacks were 4-0 and rose to No. 7 during
their off week on Oct. 4.
Since then, Arkansas has dropped two straight -- at home no less
-- fallen to No. 21 and out of the race for the SEC Western Division
crown. The Razorbacks failed to score a touchdown in losing to
Auburn and they only had one Saturday until the 21-point fourth
quarter closed the gap.
Arkansas advanced to the SEC championship game last year with
three conference losses. It will be difficult to duplicate that
this year, since Auburn is undefeated after four conference games
and Ole Miss is 3-0.
The Razorbacks head to Oxford, Miss., to play the Rebels this
week in danger of starting SEC play at 1-3 for the third straight
"We have to keep playing hard and get back to winning,"
Arkansas offensive tackle Shawn Andrews said. "We have to
encourage each other during this week."