13th-ranked Gator football team defeated Mississippi State,
35-9, in front of a sun-splashed crowd of 90,104 fans at Ben Hill Griffin
Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Florida
(5-1/3-1 SEC) claimed its 17th straight Homecoming victory, while the Bulldogs fell
to 2-4 overall and 0-4 in league action. In addition, the Gators have taken
five of their first six contests for the first time since 2001.
Senior Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.)
caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior Chris Leak (Charlotte,
N.C.) and finished with career highs in receptions (seven) and yardage (123
yards). Meanwhile, the Gator defense totaled six sacks, forced three turnovers
and registered two safeties.
intercepting Leak on the Gators’ opening drive and taking possession at UF’s 29-yard
line, Mississippi State was victimized by a turnover of its own when
sophomore Kyle Jackson (Neptune Beach, Fla.)
notched his second pick of the year with a sprawling grab in the end zone.
the scoring with a 10-play, 53-yard drive that was capped by a 44-yard field
goal from junior Chris Hetland
(Leesburg, Ga.) with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter. Facing a third
down and seven from UF’s 34-yard line, Leak found junior Chad Jackson (Hoover, Ala.) on a
crossing pattern for 11 yards to extend Jackson’s
streak to 18 consecutive games with a reception. On the next two plays, freshman
Markus Manson (Tuscaloosa,
Ala.) and Jackson
picked up consecutive first downs with carries of 11 and 12 yards,
respectively, before Hetland connected on his third field goal from beyond 40
yards this year.
next drive, the Bulldogs answered with a career-long field goal of 49 yards by
junior Keith Andrews to tie the score at 3-3 with 4:08 left in the opening
frame. State used an eight-play drive, spanning 4:14, and gained 33 yards to
even the contest.
through the second quarter, junior Eric
Wilbur (Winter Park, Fla.) pinned the Bulldogs’ at their own
one-yard line with a season-high 56-yard punt. Soon after, senior Jarvis Herring (Live Oak, Fla.) pressured MSU junior quarterback
Omarr Conner into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, resulting
in a safety and a 5-3 Gator lead. Florida’s
defense had not recorded a safety since Nov. 21, 1998, against Florida State.
40-yard punt by Wilbur, a fumble recovery by junior Reggie Nelson (Melbourne, Fla.) on the muffed punt gave Florida
the ball at Mississippi
State’s 13-yard line. On
the next play, junior DeShawn Wynn (Cincinnati, Ohio)
took the handoff from Leak and raced into the end zone for his SEC-leading
eighth touchdown of the campaign and a 12-3 advantage for the hosts with 6:16
left until the half. The one-play drive lasting seven seconds was UF’s quickest
since a one-play, four-second drive against San Jose State
on Aug. 30, 2003, when Ran Carthon had a two-yard rushing score.
the half, the Bulldogs used a 56-yard completion from freshman Michael Henig to
classmate Keon Humphries down to the Florida
18-yard line, setting up a 35-yard field goal attempt by Andrews with two seconds
remaining. However, the kick was wide right to send the Gators into the locker
room ahead, 12-3. UF carried the ball 18 times for 107 yards in the first half
and each team had a pair of turnovers.
its lead to 19-3 on a three-yard rushing touchdown by Leak with 5:31 left in
the third quarter. The TD was Leak’s third on the ground this season, placing
him second on the squad. The 5:17 scoring drive covered 73 yards and 10 plays
and featured a 12-yard reception by junior Gavin
Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) and a 28-yard grab by Baker.
seconds later, senior Jerious Norwood ripped off a career-best 76-yard scoring
run to pull the Bulldogs to within 19-9. However, the two-point conversion was
no good when senior Vernell Brown (Gainesville, Fla.)
tipped away the pass from Hening intended for junior Will Prosser.
hemmed MSU at the one-yard line for the second time in the game, a sack by
sophomore Brandon Siler (Orlando, Fla.)
on Henig resulted in the Gators’ second safety of the afternoon and a 21-9 lead
with 59 seconds remaining in the third. It was the first time Florida
had two safeties in a game since a 31-4 setback to Miami
Sept. 5, 1987. UF received the ensuing free kick and drove the ball 68 yards on
eight plays, completed by a 15-yard scoring toss from Leak to Baker to build a
28-9 advantage with 13:07 left in the game.
punt by Webb in the end zone resulted in a touchdown by junior Terrence Holmes (Glassboro, N.J.)
and a 35-9 cushion for the Gators with 12 minutes showing on the clock. It was
the first blocked kick for a TD by Florida
since Sept. 11, 1999, against UCF.
finished with 480 yards of total offense, gaining 191 yards on 37 carries (5.2
avg.) and passing for 289 yards. Leak was 18-for-33 for 244 yards, one
touchdown and two interceptions, while freshman Josh Portis (Woodland Hills, Calif.)
was 3-for-5 for 45 yards and one pick. Manson led the team with 45 yards on
seven attempts and Portis carried the ball five times for 40 yards. The duo of
Baker (123 yards) and Jackson (78 yards) had seven receptions apiece. Wilbur
punted six times for the Gators and kept MSU inside of its own 20-yard line
five times, good for an average of 47.3 yards per kick.
For Mississippi State, Hening was 9-for-20 for 119 yards
after replacing the injured Conner (2-for-5, 15 yards). Norwood rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries
and was responsible for the Bulldogs' only touchdown. Florida had a 34:07-25:53 edge in the time
Florida heads to Baton
Rouge next weekend to face Western Division rival LSU.
The game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports at 3:30 p.m.