Saturday October 16, 2004Wynn's Three Touchdowns Lift Gators over MTSU
Florida's offense erupted for 501 yards and scored seven touchdowns to defeat Middle Tennessee, 52-16, in front of a sold-out crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field. The win improved the Gators to 4-2 overall, while the Blue Raiders fell to 2-4 on the season.
Gator sophomore quarterback Chris Leak passed for three touchdowns and eclipsed 300 yards passing for the second time in his career by finishing 17-of-22 for 316 yards. Sophomore DeShawn Wynn paced the UF ground game with 81 yards on 15 carries and found the end zone three times with runs of five, nine and 15 yards. Sophomore Chad Jackson became the first Florida receiver to eclipse the 100-yard receiving plateau in a game this season with 103 yards on six catches and one touchdown. Florida’s total of 501 yards marked the second time this season that the Gators have exceeded 500 yards, the first coming against SEC rival Kentucky on Sept. 25.
Senior Matt Leach opened up the scoring for the Gators on their first possession, capping off a 55-yard march down the field with a 37-yard field goal. The Blue Raiders strung together nine plays of their own for 59 yards to tie the game on a 39-yard field goal by sophomore Colby Smith with 7:47 left in the first quarter.
On Florida’s next possession, Leak and the offense charged 78 yards on 12 plays in 4:59 to seize the advantage. Leak capped off the drive with a 4-yard completion to a wide-open O.J. Small in the end zone. Moment earlier, Small had exceeded the 1,000-yard mark in his career with a 21-yard reception that moved the Gators into scoring position.
Under a minute later, the UF offense found itself on the field again after sophomore Demetrice Webb intercepted a Clint Marks' pass on third-and-10 and returned the ball to the Blue Raiders’ 21-yard line. Leak later completed the drive by pitching the ball to Wynn, who rushed five yards into the end zone to increase the margin to 17-3.
After allowing MTSU to move the chains only once, the Gator defense forced a punt on fourth-and-11, bringing Leak and the offense back onto the field. On the very next play, Leak connected with sophomore Andre Caldwell on a 68-yard scoring toss for a 24-3 advantage. The drive, lasting a mere nine seconds, was the second-shortest scoring drive of the season for the Gators. Meanwhile, Caldwell’s 68-yard reception was the longest of his career.
Despite trailing by 19 points, MTSU’s offense strung together a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive to cut the margin to 24-10, as Marks completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to senior Kerry Wright.
However, the Gators came right back to increase their cushion to 31-10 with 3:24 remaining in the half. Wynn scampered 15 yards for his second touchdown of the afternoon to cap a five-play, 55-yard scoring drive that lasted 50 seconds.
With just a little over two minutes to play in the second quarter, MTSU’s offense converted a Leak interception into three points, as Smith connected on a 41-yard field goal. The interception was Leak's first in 101 attempts dating back to the third quarter of the Kentucky game.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Leak completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jackson on the first play of the drive to forge a 38-13 advantage. MTSU then answered with a 70-yard, 13-play scoring drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal by Smith to pull to within 38-16.
The Gators tacked on two more touchdowns in the third quarter to finalize the margin. First, junior Ciatrick Fason scored on a 20-yard run up the middle to seal a 66-yard drive on four plays. Wynn later found the end zone for the third time on the afternoon with a nine-yard run for the 52-16 final score.
During the final frame, Florida sophomore Gavin Dickey was a perfect 3-for-3 for 44 yards, contributing to the Gators' season-high total of 360 yards passing. Marks was 25-of-37 for 223 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Sophomore Eugene Gross led the Blue Raiders with 53 yards on 16 carries, while Wright had nine catches for 112 yards and one touchdown.
The Gators will resume action next Saturday on the road in Starkville, Miss., against Mississippi State. The contest, UF's first outing away from Gainesville since Sept. 18, is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. The telecast can be seen live on Jefferson-Pilot.