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Thursday January 1, 2004Football Drops Outback Bowl To Iowa

Tampa, FL

Unable to find an answer for Iowa tailback Fred Russell, No. 17 Florida lost to No. 12 Iowa 37-17 Thursday in the Outback Bowl in front of 65,372 at Raymond James Stadium.

 

Florida, which surrendered 150 rushing yards to Russell, finishes its season 8-5 (6-2 SEC). Iowa improves to 10-3 (5-3 Big Ten).

 

Florida true freshman quarterback Chris Leak completed 22-of-41 passes for a game-high 268 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The SEC Freshman of the Year set school record for most passing yards by a freshman (true or redshirt) in a season, surpassing Danny Wuerffel’s record of 2,230 yards set in 1993, on a 70-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

 

Leak finished the season with 2,435 yards and 16 touchdown passes.

 

Gators senior receiver Carlos Perez caught a game-high seven passes for 70 yards. Senior receiver Kelvin Kight and sophomore Dallas Baker caught touchdown passes for Florida.

 

In addition to his 150 yards rushing, Iowa’s Russell returned three kicks for 54 yards and was named Outback Bowl MVP. Hawkeyes receiver Maurice Brown caught six passes for 96 yards and a score.

 

Florida took a 7-0 lead to begin its second possession of the game when Leak hit Kight in stride down the middle of the field for a career-long 70-yard touchdown at 7:28.

 

The strike marked the longest touchdown pass in Outback Bowl history and the longest of Leak’s career. The Gators’ lead wouldn’t last long, however.

 

With the exception of its initial score and a few other drives during the game, Florida’s offense, which had averaged 32 points in its last three games, struggled to move the ball against Iowa. The Gators finished with only 57 rushing yards.

 

Russell accounted for 37 yards on the following drive for Iowa, which ended with Nathan Chandler’s three-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Brown at 3:56 to tie the score at 7.

 

Chandler increased Iowa’s lead to 17-7 when he scampered five yards into the right corner of the endzone on a bootleg at 8:56 of the second quarter. Nate Kaeding’s 32-yard field goal, his second of the game, sent the Gators into the half down 20-7.

 

Iowa’s momentum carried into the second half as it blocked a Florida punt and recovered it in the endzone on the Gators’ first possession to take a 27-7 lead 54 seconds into the third quarter.

 

With Florida facing a fourth-and-five from its 21-yard line, the Hawkeyes’ Matt Melloy broke throw Florida’s line, blocked freshman Eric Wilbur’s punt and recovered it for a score.

 

The Gators’ offense showed signs of life on their next possession by marching 62 yards on 10 plays to set up a 48-yard field goal by Matt Leach with 11:19 left in the third quarter.

 

Iowa turned to Russell late in the third quarter to put the game away. After Chandler completed a 41-yard pass to Brown, Russell ran the ball three consecutive times with his last run going for a 34-yard touchdown to increase Iowa’s lead to 34-10.

 

Leak threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Baker late in the third quarter to account for the game’s final points.

 

Florida concluded one of the toughest schedules in school history by playing its seventh ranked opponent, which tied a school record.

 

 

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