Florida heads into off week on a roll

Updated: October 19, 2003, 6:44 PM ET

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 Saturday.

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 regular season.

"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 season.

"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."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index