Saturday October 4, 2003Florida Defeated By Ole Miss, 20-17
No. 24 Florida (3-3, 1-2), unable to withstand a late Ole Miss (3-2, 2-0) comeback, was defeated by the Rebels 20-17 Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. An Eric Oliver interception at the Rebel's 33-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the game stopped the final Gator drive and solidified the win for Ole Miss.
True freshman quarterback Chris Leak threw for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Ben Troupe and senior receiver O.J. Small led the Gators offense in the first half. Troupe caught four passes for 63 yards and one touchdown, while Small had 57 yards and a touchdown.
Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Leak engineered a 12-play, 74-yards scoring drive to give Florida a 7-3 lead. The athletic Ben Troupe pulled away from several Ole Miss defenders for the 18-yard touchdown reception with 5:57 left in the first.
Small’s 5-yard diving touchdown reception in the back-left corner of the endzone gave Florida a 14-3 lead halfway through the second quarter. Small set up the score by hauling in a 50-yard reception from Leak two plays earlier.
Ronald McClendon broke away from several Gators on a draw play during Ole Miss’ next drive and scampered 52 yards for the score to bring the Rebels within four, 14-10.
Junior kicker Matt Leach’s 36-yards field goal with just more than a minute remaining in the first half allowed Florida to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
A 48-yard run by senior Ran Carthon, who finished the day with 108 yards, early in the third quarter brought the Gators to Ole Miss’ 7-yard line and put them in position to extend their lead. Ole Miss pushed the Gators back to their 19, and, Leach was unsuccessful on a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Eli Manning, who finished the game with 262 yards, drove the Rebels 78 yards to the Florida 19 before senior safety Guss Scott stripped the ball from receiver Mike Espy on Florida’s 2-yard line. Junior safety Corey Bailey recovered the ball to temporarily preserve Florida’s seven-point lead.
With three seconds left in the third, Manning’s 59-yard pass completion to Bill Flowers set the Rebels up for Jonathan Nichols’ 23-yard field goal to put Ole Miss within four, 17-13.
Ole Miss put together a four-minute, 8-play, 50-yard drive in the fourth that ended with Vashon Pearson rush up the middle for the 20-17 lead with 1:16 remaining in the game.
Florida returns to action when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., to take on the 6th ranked Louisiana State Tigers. Kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised on CBS.