Woodson’s interception streak ends, but Cats’ winning streak continues

One streak ended Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. But another — perhaps more important — streak continued.

UK quarterback Andre Woodson’s NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception ended at 325 when he was picked off by Florida Atlantic cornerback Tavious Polo early in the third quarter. But with a 45-17 win over the Owls, the Cats (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) have now won six straight and 10 of their last 11 games. UK is 5-0 for the first time since 1984.

“We’re done with non-conference and sitting here at 5-0,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “We won all of them at Commonwealth and one on the road and now it really starts. We’ve positioned ourselves to have an opportunity to do some pretty exciting things.”

Woodson’s streak ended with 11:30 to go in the third quarter when Polo, who leads the nation with seven interceptions, out-jumped fullback John Conner on a lob pass in the front corner of the end zone.

Still, the end of the streak didn’t dampen Woodson’s afternoon. The senior completed 26 of 33 passes for 301 yards and five touchdowns, his career high. It was Woodson’s 11th straight 200-yard passing game and fifth career 300-yard game, and his 79 percent completion rate was a career high.

Though many of his teammates were disappointed to see the streak end, Woodson didn’t display much emotion, Lyons said.

“It was upsetting,” said Lyons, who led the Cats with eight catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns. “But he wasn’t even worried about it. He got (to the sideline) and wanted to know what he did wrong and got back in the game.”

Woodson hit Lyons for his first touchdown pass midway through the first quarter, giving the Cats a 7-0 lead. It was Woodson’s 51st career touchdown pass, moving him ahead of Babe Parilli to third all-time at UK. He later found Lyons again for his third touchdown on a 22-yard strike in the second quarter.

“He played really a remarkable game,” Brooks said of Woodson. “He moved the ball around a lot to a lot of different people. (He was) very productive and efficient throwing the football.”

Wide receiver Keenan Burton has already said Woodson should be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, and Saturday’s performance did nothing to change Burton’s mind, he said.

“I’m going to put so much pressure on him that he better win the Heisman,” Burton said. “He continues to amaze me and amaze everybody, and it’s a situation where if he doesn’t win the Heisman, somebody at the top’s not doing something right.”

Florida Atlantic kept the game close early, controlling the ball for 13 of the game’s first 17 minutes. The Owls answered the first UK touchdown by driving 70 yards for a field goal that cut the UK lead to 7-3.

It took Woodson only 1:34 to guide the Cats back to the end zone. With the Owls showing blitz, Woodson changed plays at the line and hit senior Steve Johnson for the score. Johnson fought off a defender and made a diving 27-yard catch, one of his two in the game. Though he made only one touchdown catch in 2006, Johnson already has four this season.

Florida Atlantic answered the Cats again, this time behind quarterback Rusty Smith’s arm. Smith connected with receiver Cortez Gent on a 20-yard touchdown pass, cutting the margin to 14-10. Smith exited the game at the start of the fourth quarter after throwing for 184 yards and a touchdown. Gent led the Owls with five catches.

The touchdown was the last Florida Atlantic challenge.

Woodson found Lyons for his third touchdown pass on the ensuing possession, then hit Burton in the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown pass with just more than a minute left in the first half. Burton finished the game with six catches for 100 yards, his seventh 100-yard receiving game at UK.

Burton’s touchdown catch marked the seventh straight UK possession that ended with a touchdown, dating to the second half against Arkansas last week.

Finally, Woodson threw his fifth touchdown to Conner with four minutes left in the third quarter.

After Florida Atlantic scored in the fourth quarter, UK linebacker Micah Johnson snagged his first career interception and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Cats over 40 points for the fifth straight game — something no SEC school has done since 2001.