Sunday November 14, 2004Leak's Six TD Passes Lead Football Over USC, 48-14
Sophomore quarterback Chris Leak tied a school record in a Southeastern Conference game with six touchdown passes as the University of Florida rolled to a 48-14 win over the University of South Carolina on Homecoming in front of a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd of 90,294 at Florida Field. Leak, who was 18-of-31 for 319 yards, became the first Gator to toss six touchdowns in a game since Danny Wuerffel accomplished the feat against Alabama in 1996. The Gators (6-4/4-4 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks (6-4/4-4 SEC) for the 14th straight time and clinched their 17th consecutive winning season, the longest streak in the SEC.
South Carolina opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 13-yard run by senior Gonzie Gray to seize a 7-0 advantage. The drive culminated a 76-yard march down the field on 12 plays that took 6:36 off the clock.
Less than five minutes later, the Gators answered with a scoring drive of their own, as Leak threaded a 24-yard pass through two Gamecock defenders to true freshman tight end Tate Casey to even the score. Florida’s drive, which started from the Gamecock 36-yard line, began after junior Jeremy Mincey intercepted sophomore quarterback Syvelle Newton and gave the Gator offense good field position in South Carolina territory. Mincey’s interception was the first turnover that UF converted into points since visiting Mississippi State on Oct. 23.
With 8:16 remaining in the half, Gator sophomore Jemalle Cornelius blocked a USC punt that was recovered by freshman Tony Joiner at the Gamecocks’ nine-yard line. Soon after, Leak found a wide-open Fason in the left corner of the end zone from five yards out to move the hosts ahead for good. With his team-leading 11th touchdown, Fason now has nine rushing and two receiving scores this season.
Later, facing third-and-goal from the Gamecocks’ four-yard line, the Gator offense added another seven points to its margin as Leak hooked up with Casey from four yards out for his third scoring pass of the half. The drive consisted of 36 yards on nine plays and left just 27 seconds on the clock before the break. Casey’s second touchdown reception in the game was his fourth touchdown of the season on his fifth catch.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Leak and the offense clicked again for another touchdown. Facing third-and-nine at the Florida 44, Leak launched a 56-yard bullet to sophomore Chad Jackson on the Gators’ third play of the drive to boost the lead to 28-7.
On South Carolina’s next possession, freshman Kyle Jackson notched his first career interception when he picked off Newton and had an 18-yard return to the Gamecocks’ 40-yard line. Continuing with the momentum, Leak and the offense capped off a 17-yard drive with a 40-yard field goal by senior Matt Leach to build a 31-7 cushion. Leach's successful kick was his fifth in a row beyond 40 yards.
After forcing South Carolina three-and-out with 3:03 left to play in the third, the Gators advanced 31 yards down the field on nine plays before Leach booted a 34-yarder for a 34-7 bulge.
Florida’s fifth touchdown of the game came with 12:43 remaining, as Leak completed a 61-yard scoring pass to sophomore Andre Caldwell. The one-play drive lasted only 11 seconds. On the Gators' next possession, Leak hit junior Dallas Baker from 39 yards out to provide UF with a 48-7 advantage.
South Carolina scored with 1:48 remaining on a 5-yard pass from senior Mike Rathe to freshman David Smith to complete the scoring, 48-14. The Gamecocks covered 78 yards on 10 plays for their second touchdown of the night.
Leak's fourth career 300-yard effort also marked the 16th time in his career that he had eclipsed at least 200 yards passing. In addition, he has thrown at least two touchdown passes in nine out of 10 games this season and in seven-straight outings.
Sophomore Skyler Thornton rushed for a career-high 55 yards on 13 carries for Florida, while Leak completed passes to eight different receivers. Chad Jackson had three catches for 90 yards, Caldwell caught four balls for 78 yards and Baker totaled 70 yards on two catches. All three Gators snagged a touchdown reception.
For USC, Newton was 7-of-17 for 66 yards with three interceptions, while Rathe was 5-of-7 for 68 yards and a touchdown. Paced by 53 yards on 10 carries by sophomore Demetris Summers, the Gamecocks out-rushed UF, 147-92. Florida's defense limited the SEC's leading receiver, South Carolina junior Troy Williamson, to just one catch for seven yards. The Gator defense also made a season-high four interceptions. Entering tonight's action, the Garnet and Black had permitted just seven passing touchdowns in nine games before Leak's performance of six.
Florida will close their regular season next Saturday at in-state rival Florida State in Tallahassee. Kickoff will be at 7:45 p.m. and the game will be carried live on ESPN.