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No. 3 Gators Bury The Wildcats

AP/SF Chronicle, Deanne Fitzmaurice
Jesse Palmer had a record-tying performance, just not the kind anyone expects out of a Florida quarterback.

Palmer accounted for five touchdowns, four of them rushing to tie a school record, as the third-ranked Gators built a five-touchdown lead Saturday and beat Kentucky for the 14th consecutive time, 59-31.

Palmer scored on two 1-yard sneaks, an inside bootleg from 14 yards and a quarterback scramble from 13 yards. He also threw a 32-yard touchdown pass during a 49-second scoring burst that gave Florida (4-2, 2-0 SEC) control of the game.

The Gators needed all them against the Wildcats (2-2, 0-1).

Behind 275-pound quarterback Jared Lorenzen, Kentucky moved down the field with little resistance and piled up 504 yards, the most by any SEC team against Florida since Steve Spurrier took over as coach in 1990.

Lorenzen was 35-of-59 for 363 yards, the fourth time in as many games he has thrown for at least 300 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but also had two interceptions, one that cost the Wildcats near the end of the first half.

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Game Summary

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  • Artose Pinner had 125 yards rushing for Kentucky, but also lost two fumbles. The Gators scored touchdowns after all four Kentucky turnovers.

    This was hardly a defensive struggle. The Gators had 452 yards and scored on a late touchdown pass by backup Rex Grossman. Each team punted only once, and Kentucky held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game.

    The big surprise was Palmer.

    He became only the fourth player at Florida to score four touchdowns on the ground, and the first since Fred Taylor against Florida State in 1997. The other two happened before World War II.

    He also went a long way toward securing his starting job for the rest of the year, connecting on two long passes and not coming close to turning the ball over. He left midway through the third quarter with Florida leading, 52-17.

    Palmer was 12-o-19 for 190 yards, as Spurrier was content to run through the weak defense of Kentucky. Earnest Graham scored on a 57-yard run and finished with 128 yards on 14 carries.

    Although the Wildcats never led, they never quit.

    Desperate to match Florida touchdown-for-touchdown, Lorenzen directed a 17-play, 76-yard scoring drive in which the Wildcats twice converted on fourth down and three times on third down, the last one an 8-yard TD pass to tight end Derek Smith.

    That trimmed Florida's lead to 24-17 late in the first half, and sent a strong message that the Wildcats would be tough to stop unless they stopped themselves.

    That's just what happened, in a shocking turnaround that took only 49 seconds.

    After the Wildcats forced Florida to punt for the first time in the game, they took over on their own 32 with 1:52 left and a chance to go into halftime with a tie. But Lito Sheppard, who returned an interception for a touchdown in last week's big win over Tennessee, picked off Lorenzen and returned it to the 16.

    Palmer ran another inside bootleg to perfection to the 1 and scored on the next play. On Kentucky's next play from scrimmage, Alex Brown stripped the ball from Pinner at the end of a run and recovered the fumble.

    One play later, Palmer hit Kirk Wells for a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 38-17 lead. Graham scored on the first drive of the second half, when right tackle Leon Searcy sealed off the line and Graham scooted free down the sideline.

    Lorenzen faced little pressure and hit a couple of 45-yard passes to Quentin McCord to inside the 5-yard line. One set up a short field goal that tied the game at 3, and the other let to Chad Scott's 2-yard touchdown run.

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