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Sunday September 18, 2005No. 6 UF Football Tops No. 4 Tennessee, 16-7, To Win SEC Opener

Gainesville, FL

Before a record-breaking crowd of 90,716 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night, the sixth-ranked Gator football team (3-0) claimed its Southeastern Conference opener with a 16-7 victory over fourth-ranked Tennessee (1-1). Junior quarterback Chris Leak (Charlotte, N.C.) was 17-of-26 for 179 yards and zero interceptions, junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) scored on an 18-yard run and junior Chris Hetland (Leesburg, Ga.) was perfect on field-goal attempts from 38, 35 and 20 yards out to help UF capture Urban Meyer's SEC coaching debut. The Gator defense held Tennessee scoreless for the final 39:29 of the game and controlled the ball for 11:16 in the fourth quarter.

 

Florida scored first with 4:14 left in the first quarter on an 18-yard run by Caldwell. During the eight-play, 80-yard drive, Leak found junior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius (Fort Meade, Fla.) for a 14-yard gain to convert a third-down and eight. Two plays later, junior DeShawn Wynn (Cincinnati, Ohio) charged 16 yards into Tennessee territory at the 49-yard-line. The Gators advanced into the red zone after freshman running back Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) made a 14-yard rush and Wynn picked up 17 more yards on a pass from Leak. Caldwell executed an end around to open the scoring and Hetland tacked on the extra point to move Florida ahead, 7-0.

 

The Vols evened the score at 7-7 with 9:29 remaining in the second quarter on an eight-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge to junior wide receiver Bret Smith. Tennessee covered 83 yards on 12 plays, taking 5:17 of the clock, and used an extra-point by junior James Wilhoit to tie the game.

 

Following a fumble recovery at Tennessee's 31-yard line by junior cornerback Tremaine McCollum (Miami, Fla.), Florida later went ahead to stay on a 38-yard field goal by Hetland with 11:41 remaining in the third quarter.

 

Soon after, the Gators added three more points following a failed fake punt attempt by the Vols which allowed UF to take over at the 31-yard-line. Facing a third-down and nine from Tennessee's 30-yard-line, Leak scrambled 17 yards for the first down. However, the defense stiffened and the result was a 35-yard kick by Hetland with 5:14 left in the frame that gave the Orange and Blue a 13-7 advantage.

 

A 16-play, 68-yard drive spanning 7:42 yielded the Gators' final points of the night, a 20-yard field goal by Hetland that completed the margin at 16-7. Facing third down and 19 yards from his team's 34-yard line, Leak launched a 23-yard dart to senior wide receiver Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) for a first down at Tennessee's 43 yard-line. On another third-down situation, Leak hooked up with Cornelius for a 24-yard sideline completion. Jackson later made his third first-down reception of the contest to set up the field goal.

 

The Gators managed a 247-213 edge in total yards over the Vols and had a slim 68-66 rushing advantage. Wynn had a career-high 17 rushes for 53 yards, while Jackson led the receiving corps with eight catches for 53 yards. Caldwell (three catches, 51 yards) reached the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for his career with an 18-yard grab in the second quarter. For Tennessee, senior Gerald Riggs, Jr., gained 86 yards on 17 rushes, while the quarterback duo of Ainge (14-of-29, 147 yards) and senior Rick Clausen (2-of-5, zero yards) was 16-of-35 for 147 yards.

 

On defense, senior cornerback Vernell Brown (Gainesville, Fla.) and senior safety Jarvis Herring (Live Oak, Fla.) teamed up to lead Florida with seven tackles apiece. In addition, junior cornerback Demetrice Webb (Jacksonville, Fla.) blocked UT's 37-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.

 

The Gators return to SEC action next Saturday when they visit Eastern Division rival Kentucky (1-2) at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Game time will be announced on Sunday afternoon.

 

-UF-

 

 

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