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Saturday October 7, 2006No. 5 Football Triumphs Over No. 9 LSU, 23-10

Gainesville, FL

The fifth-ranked Gator football team celebrated Homecoming in fine fashion on Saturday with a 23-10 victory over ninth-ranked LSU (4-2/1-2 SEC) in front of 90,714 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The second-largest crowd in school history watched the Orange and Blue emerge successful on Homecoming for the 18th-straight time. Florida improved to 6-0 overall for the first time since 1996 and raised its Southeastern Conference mark to 4-0 with its eighth consecutive victory dating back to last season and its 13th win in a row in The Swamp. Freshman Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) threw the first two touchdown passes of his career and the UF defense collected three interceptions, two by junior cornerback Ryan Smith (Diamond Bar, Calif.), recovered two fumbles and tallied a safety. Senior Chris Leak (Charlotte, N.C.) was 17-of-26 for 155 yards as Florida totaled 288 yards of offense.

 

LSU opened the scoring with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter on a two-yard pass from junior quarterback JaMarcus Russell to junior fullback Jacob Hester. The Tigers' nine-play, 73-yard drive resulted from a fumble by Gator sophomore running back Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) on LSU’s 28-yard line. The fumble was forced by junior linebacker Luke Sanders and recovered by senior safety Jessie Daniels. Sophomore kicker Colt David’s successful extra point gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

 

Later in the first, LSU junior Chevis Jackson fumbled a 42-yard punt by senior Eric Wilbur (Winter Park, Fla.) that was eventually recovered by junior defensive lineman Lutrell Alford (Gainesville, Fla.) on the 19-yard line. Six plays later, the Gators evened the score as Tebow, on a fourth and goal from the one, powered his way up the middle into the end zone with 11 ticks remaining in the quarter. Senior kicker Chris Hetland’s (Leesburg, Ga.) point-after was good, knotting the contest at 7-7.

 

A key play of the game came with 5:12 left in the second quarter, as LSU faced a second and goal at Florida’s one-yard line. Junior linebacker Brandon Siler (Orlando, Fla.) recovered a Russell fumble that ended the threat of a possible go-ahead Tiger score.

 

Florida moved in front with 22 seconds remaining before halftime as Tebow connected with junior tight end Tate Casey (Longview, Texas) on a 1-yard pass up the middle for his first career touchdown pass. With the Gators out of timeouts, Tebow ran toward the line and flipped the ball over several defenders and into the waiting arms of Casey. Hetland's PAT gave the hosts a 14-7 lead and capped off the nine-play, 72-yard drive. A 17-yard reception by junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) on a third down and 15, 23 yards away from the pylon, helped set up the TD.

 

The second half began with a bang, as the Gators notched their second safety of the year to build a 16-7 lead. Freshman receiver Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) caused a fumble on the kickoff that was recovered by LSU freshman receiver Trindon Holliday. However, the LSU player was tackled in the end zone by senior cornerback Jermaine McCollum (Miami, Fla.) to earn the two points for the Orange and Blue.

 

Tebow’s second touchdown pass of the night took place when he found sophomore receiver Louis Murphy (St. Petersburg, Fla.) wide open near the end zone on a 35-yard toss with 12:05 left in the third quarter. The Gators drove 67 yards downfield on only five plays and Murphy’s first career reception, as well as another successful extra-point attempt by Hetland, gave Florida a 23-7 advantage. LSU narrowed the deficit to 23-10 on a 45-yard field goal by David with 11:53 left in the contest but could not move any closer.  

 

Caldwell led the Gator receiving corps with five receptions for 38 yards, followed by senior Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.), who totaled 46 yards on four catches, and Jemalle Cornelius (Fort Meade, Fla.) with 40 yards on three catches. Moore led the team with 10 rushes and 36 yards, while Tebow gained 35 yards on nine carries and was 2-for-2 passing for 36 yards and two scores. Senior defensive tackle Marcus Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla.) spearheaded the defensive effort with eight total tackles, while Siler came up with seven tackles and a fumble recovery. Sophomore defensive end Derrick Harvey (Greenbelt, Md.) produced Florida’s only sack of the game.

 

Russell finished 24-of-41 for 228 yards, with three interceptions and one touchdown pass. Hester had 43 yards on nine attempts and senior Craig Davis had a game-high eight receptions and 85 yards. The Gators head to the Plains next week to face Auburn (5-1/3-1 SEC) under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be carried live by ESPN starting at 7:45 p.m. The teams have not met since a 30-23 Florida win in overtime on Oct. 19, 2002.

 

-UF-

 

 

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