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September 29, 2007

No. 14 Kentucky handles Florida Atlantic

LEXINGTON, Ky. — After throwing a 325 consecutive passes without an interception, Andre Woodson was due to have one end up in the wrong hands.

The Kentucky quarterback's record-setting streak ended Saturday against Florida Atlantic, though little else went wrong for Woodson and the 14th-ranked Wildcats in a 45-17 victory.

He threw a career-high five TDs and would have had a sixth TD, but his toss to fullback John Conner was picked off by Tavious Polo as the two players battled for the ball near the goal line. It was the seventh interception of the year for the freshman cornerback, who came into the game as the national leader.

"It was a foolish throw," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "He threw off his back foot. We won't have to have everybody talking about (the streak) anymore. He can start another one."

Woodson, who set the NCAA mark last week against Arkansas by surpassing Trent Dilfer's major college record of 271 straight passes without an interception, said he was honored to be part of history but never was much interested in the record.

"It hasn't fazed me one bit," Woodson said.

It didn't look like it Saturday either, as he connected on 26 of 33 passes for a season-high 301 yards in just over three quarters.

The emerging Heisman Trophy contender pushed the streak past 300 in the Wildcats' opening drive, which ended with a 14-yard strike that Dicky Lyons Jr. cradled from his knees in the back of the end zone. Lyons later scored from 22 yards out.

"He's proven to everyone in the nation that he is what he's expected to be, and I think he's only going to keep improving," Lyons said.

After the Owls answered with a field goal, Woodson struck again. This time he connected with Steve Johnson for a 27-yard TD.

By the time the first half was finished, Kentucky (5-0) was up 28-10, all from Woodson's TD passes. The final one of the half was a perfectly placed 34-yarder between two defenders to Keenan Burton, who dived into the end zone, his arm outstretched with the ball.

With the catch, Burton became the third Kentucky player in history to reach 2,000 career receiving yards. Afterward, all of Burton's attention was focused on his lobbying campaign to get his quarterback voted as the nation's top player.

"I'm going to put so much pressure on him that he has to win the Heisman," Burton said. "Andre just continues to amaze me and amaze everybody."

Florida Atlantic (3-2) came into the game ranked second nationally in turnover margin, with nine more gains than losses. Although Polo was the team's turnover star, Woodson didn't shy away from him, throwing his way numerous time, starting with the first pass.

Kentucky chipped away at the Owls' turnover margin, recovering a fumble and grabbing interceptions by Braxton Kelley and Micah Johnson, the latter returned 16 yards for the Wildcats' final score.

"They definitely look like an SEC defense," Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith said. "They were big and they were strong and they were fast."

Florida Atlantic is coached by Kentucky alumnus Howard Schnellenberger, who is credited with resurrecting programs at Miami and Louisville. Schnellenberger tried some trickery, including reverses and a hook and lateral play that resulted in 17 yards.

Schnellenberger also heaped praised on Woodson.

"He is the most careful quarterback that I have been around," he said. "He has worked an awfully long time with those receivers to know where they are going to be when they do certain things."

The Owls did reach the end zone twice, in the second quarter on a 20-yard pass from Smith to Cortez Gent, and in the fourth on a 1-yard plunge from Charles Pierre set up by a long kickoff return.

In the end, however, Florida Atlantic couldn't keep up with the Wildcats' speed. Kentucky running back Rafael Little had 20 carries for 112 yards, and Burton led all receivers with 100 yards.

Kentucky faces a short week of practices before heading to South Carolina Thursday to face Steve Spurrier, who the Wildcats have never beaten. Other SEC titans follow, LSU and defending national champion Florida.

"We've positioned ourselves to have an opportunity to do some pretty exciting things," Brooks said.

For more coverage of Kentucky, visit CatsPause.com.



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