FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 12th-ranked Florida Gators used a scoring burst in the final quarter to turn a close battle with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks into a 38-7 victory in Southeastern Conference football this afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Florida, 4-1, hands Arkansas, 2-3, a third straight loss to a team ranked in the Associated Press top 15.
"It’s a tough loss because our players did a good job to get their emotions back after the Texas loss, and we had better leadership this week during practice," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "They have shown that they really care. I know our players really got themselves ready to play."
Junior Michael Smith registered his second 100-yard game of the season, including the only touchdown of the afternoon for Arkansas. Smith ran for 133 yards on 20 carries.
"Michael Smith is a very hard runner," Razorback quarterback Casey Dick said. "He makes plays. That’s what we have to have out there."
Dick threw for 208 yards on 22 of 35, and in the fourth quarter passed Arkansas legend Joe Ferguson on the all-time career yardage. Dick is now seventh all-time.
"The offensive line did a great job, and we improved from last week to this week in practice and in the game," Dick said. "We have to keep our heads high, but we have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone once we get it down there."
Arkansas held the Gators in check most of the first half, frustrating the Florida offense.
"Our defense did well today, and I liked what we did before halftime," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "We worked hard all week and had better leadership in practice. It showed during the game."
Turnovers cost the Razorbacks in the first half. Arkansas had one drive end with an interception at the goal line., and the second Florida score of the game was set up by a Razorback fumble. A 36-yard run by Jeff Demps left before intermission gave UF its 14-0 lead.
Following a 37-yard field goal to open the third quarter by Florida, Arkansas got on the board for the first time.
Dick drove Arkansas 53 yards in seven plays. A pair of passes to Joe Adams and throws to Smith and D.J. Williams moved Arkansas inside the Gator 10 yard line. Smith’s 6-yard run cut the Florida lead to 10, 17-7, and gave Arkansas new momentum.
Arkansas’ Jerry Franklin picked off Tebow on the Gators’ next possession, snapping a 203 consecutive pass attempts without an interception streak. Tebow’s streak was the longest in Florida history, and ranked third all-time in SEC history.
"We got it in position to win when we got that touchdown, but when we got that interception we weren’t able to convert it and get any points," Petrino said.
But the Razorbacks were unable to move the ball, and after a Jeremy Davis punt Tebow made up for his error.
He marched the Gators 83 yards in only six plays, completing three straight passes over 15 yards to finish the possession. Percy Harvin’s 21-yard reception capped the drive.
Arkansas moved the ensuing kickoff to the Gator 12 yard line, but a Shay Haddock field goal attempt was blocked.
"We thought we had a chance," Smith said. "We let it slip away. We have to play four quarters. In order to be a good team, we have to learn how to do that. We know we let it go in the fourth quarter."
Florida added a pair of insurance TDs. Chris Rainey broke away for a 75-yard touchdown run with 5:07 left in the game, then another by Demps went 48 yards with 1:04 on the clock.
Along with his 133 yards, Smith also had six receptions for 43 yards. Adams led Arkansas in reception yardage with 68 yards on his five catches.
Florida’s Tebow finished with 217 yards on 17 of 26 with one TD and his lone interception. The Gators had two backs over 100 yards with Rainey and Demps turning in identical 103-yard games.
Arkansas is on the road for its fourth straight AP Top 25 team at Auburn. Kickoff is 4 p.m. in Auburn, Ala., and the game will be available on pay per view in the respective states.