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UK PICKS OFF FLORIDA 7 TIMES BUT LOSES 24-20 ON PASS AT :03

Date story was published: Sunday, September 12, 1993

Seven interceptions from the defense, a 70-yard touchdown run from a true freshman tailback, a 25-yard field goal from a new kicker for a three- point lead with 1:26 remaining, all that, and for Kentucky, it still wasn't enough.

Backup quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who had thrown three of Florida's seven interceptions, brought the upset-minded Cats crashing back to earth on the game's final play from scrimmage, hitting wide-open Chris Doering with a 28- yard pass to give the seventh-ranked Gators a heart-stopping 24-20 victory last night at Commonwealth Stadium.

Doering, a little-known sophomore split end from Gainesville, hauled in the winning score off a post pattern with three seconds remaining as Steve Spurrier's club, a two-touchdown favorite, escaped.

"Kentucky had us on the ropes," said Spurrier, whose team had rolled up more than 1,600 yards in beating Bill Curry's Cats the previous three seasons.

"I just feel so blessed and lucky," Wuerffel said. "You can't let things get on you. I kept telling myself that we would come back and win this game."

For Kentucky, the loss was reminiscent of so many heartbreaking Cats football defeats, from last year's 37-36 loss to Mississippi State, even back to the 31-27 come-from-ahead loss in 1987 when a Bill Curry-coached Alabama team scored on the final play for victory.

"I'm very proud of our team," Curry said last night. "But the critical thing for our program is to understand how far we've come. It's critically important that we take a step forward tonight and get better."

UK defensive back Willie Cannon's interception at the Florida 15 with 3:03 remaining had set up a 25-yard field goal from UK's Juha Leonoff to give the home team a 20-17 lead with 1:23 remaining.

But Florida's Harrison Houston returned the ensuing kickoff to the Gators 42. And Wuerffel, a redshirt freshman who had earlier replaced starter Terry Dean, moved Florida to the Kentucky 28-yard line with 17 seconds remaining. After UK free safety Steven Hall, making his first start, broke up a first-down pass with 13 seconds left, Wuerffel missed Doering, a sophomore from Gainesville, over the middle with eight seconds left.

Instead of going for the field goal and the tie, Spurrier opted for the win. And Wuerffel hit the wide open Doering at the goal line.

"We were in two-deep, the coverage we had played most of the time," said UK defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "I thought with eight seconds to go they would go for the win. That's just what they are. We believe in it. If our safety reads it -- and without looking at the tape it's hard to say -- but he was not in position to make the play. That's the key. They executed; we didn't."

The ironic twist being that until that point, UK had executed, mixing and disguising their coverages throughout the night and making a school-record seven interceptions against possibly the most sophisticated and effective passing offense in the nation. Strong safety Marcus Jenkins picked off three, middle linebacker Marty Moore had two, Cannon had one and linebacker Duce Williams another.

Dean, the Gators starter, tossed four interceptions, hitting 18 of 30 passes for 150 yards. Wuerffel, his backup, was picked off three times, completing 10 of 22 passes for 138 yards.

"We had 'em throwing into coverage all night," said Jenkins, a senior who made all three of his thefts in the first half.

But too often UK failed to capitalize on the turnovers, scoring just 10 points off the defensive windfall. Jenkins' first interception was turned into a touchdown, and Cannon's pick became a field goal. But in between, the Cats could only punt after three thefts. Another, Jenkins' third pick, came on the final play of the first half.

"We must learn to capitalize on those situations," Curry said.

In fact, most of Kentucky's offense came on a single 70-yard touchdown burst from true freshman tailback Mo Williams, who ripped through the Gator defense and outran All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Larry Kennedy, to give the Cats a 14-9 lead less than two minutes into the second half.

With UK up 17-9, Florida pulled within 17-15 when Wuerffel hit Doering with a 19-yard scoring pass with 7:36 remaining.

"That No. 28 killed us," Archer said of Doering, who despite the larger reputations of Gator receivers Willie and Jack Jackson, caught six passes for 95 yards and two scores.

The Gators elected to go for two points, and Wuerffel hit Willie Jackson, who spun into the end zone to tie the game at 17.

"When Juha made the field goal, I told our guys they were going to have to make the play," said Archer. 'I knew they would come at us."

And the Gators did, going to the well one more time, and the Gators won, running their record to 2-0 as UK fell to 1-1. But only after giving the visitors a scare.

But, said Curry, "I don't want to start getting excited about something that's not a victory."

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