Saturday November 6, 2004Florida Doubles Up Vanderbilt, 34-17
Chris Leak passed for more than 300 yards in the win against Vanderbilt.
The University of Florida football team reeled off the game's final 27 points to defeat Southeastern Conference rival Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon, 34-17. Sophomore quarterback Chris Leak was 22-of-29 for 307 yards with two touchdowns passing and another one rushing, while junior Ciatrick Fason gained 170 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown to become the fourth-fastest Gator to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
With their 14th straight victory over the Commodores (2-7/1-5 SEC), the Gators improved to 5-4 overall and 3-4 in league play. Missing four of their top linebackers, sophomores Channing Crowder and Earl Everett, senior Travis Harris and junior Todd McCullough, the Gators employed a linebacker corps consisting of freshmen Alvin Butler and Brandon Siler, as well as senior Cory Bailey. Butler became only the second UF freshman walk-on in school history to start a game at linebacker, while defensive back Bailey did not possess any previous collegiate experience at linebacker. Despite having the ball during the game for 25:59, Florida out-gained the Commodores, 500-372.
Vanderbilt converted a pair of UF turnovers in the first quarter to seize a 10-0 lead. Following a fumble recovery, the Commodores' Patrick Johnson connected on a 33-yard field goal with 6:19 left in the frame. On the Gators' next possession, Leak was sacked by Kevin Joyce and the ensuing fumble in the end zone was recovered by Moses Osemwegie.
Florida answered with a nine-play, 62-yard scoring drive that was capped by a four-yard run by Fason. The Jacksonville Beach native's ninth rushing TD of the campaign narrowed the gap to 10-7. Sophomore Tremaine McCollum had given UF possession at its own 38 following a 27-yard kickoff return and Fason accounted for 27 yards on the drive.
Another Gator turnover enabled VU to assume a 17-7 lead with 8:10 left in the second quarter. After recovering a fumble at Florida's 41-yard line, the Commodores covered 40 yards on four plays to reclaim a 10-point cushion. Norval McKenzie completed the drive with a 19-yard run into the end zone.
With just 10 seconds remaining in the first half, Leak pulled the Gators to within 17-14 with a two-yard dive to finish an eight-play, 63-yard drive. Facing a second-down and 23 from UF's own 39-yard line, Leak completed a 10-yard pass to Fason and 34-yard toss to junior Dallas Baker to keep the drive alive and bring his squad down to the 17. The sophomore then raced 11 yards to VU's six-yard line with under a minute left until the break before Fason gained three yards. Leak covered the rest of the way himself with a pair of carries for his second rushing touchdown of the year.
The Gators moved in front on their opening drive of the second half, 21-17, as Leak hooked up with rookie tight end Tate Casey on a 26-yard touchdown to conclude an 80-yard, eight-play drive. A 48-yard field goal by senior Matt Leach extended UF's lead to 24-17 near the end of the third quarter.
Vanderbilt threatened at the outset of the fourth quarter by moving down to UF's 10-yard line, but Johnson's 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The Gators countered with a six-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 35-yard scoring strike from Leak to Baker for a 31-17 lead with 7:29 showing on the clock. Leach later tacked on a 47-yard field goal to finalize the margin at 34-17.
Leak exceeded 300 yards for the third time this season, while Steven Bright was 12-of-23 for 118 yards after coming on in relief of Jay Cutler. Led by 77 yards from Bright, VU out-rushed Florida, 254-193. Sophomore Andre Caldwell had five catches for 81 yards, while Leak completed passes to seven different receivers. The Gators did not punt once during the game.
Florida will celebrate Homecoming Weekend and Senior Day against South Carolina (6-3/4-3 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next Saturday. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.