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Sunday November 6, 2005Football Works Double Overtime To Down Vanderbilt, 49-42

Gainesville, FL

The 13th-ranked Gator football team held off Vanderbilt, 49-42, in double overtime on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to improve to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference. With 90,140 fans and a national television audience looking on, Florida used an interception by junior Reggie Lewis (Jacksonville, Fla.) on a pass by Commodore senior quarterback Jay Cutler to end the game. On the previous possession, junior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius (Fort Meade, Fla.) hauled in a 16-yard reception from junior Chris Leak (Charlotte, N.C.) with a dramatic catch in the back of the end zone to propel UF to its 15th straight triumph over its Eastern Division rival.

 

Leak finished with a career-high 32 completions in 41 attempts for 257 yards and passed for three touchdowns. He also led the Gators with a career-best 67 yards rushing on 12 carries, scored on a pair of one-yard runs and completed passes to 10 different receivers. Cutler was 28-for-42 for the Commodores, passing for 361 yards and four touchdowns.††

 

Vanderbilt (4-5/2-4 SEC) scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and rallied from a 35-21 deficit with under three minutes remaining to force only the second overtime ever in The Swamp. With 2:17 showing on the clock, Cutler found rookie wide receiver George Smith from two yards out and the successful extra point brought the Commodores to within a touchdown. The visitors recovered an onside kick and marched 57 yards on eight plays, capped off by a six-yard scoring toss from Cutler to freshman wide receiver Earl Bennett with 54 seconds left in regulation. Following a 15-yard penalty, freshman Bryant Hahnfeldt knocked through the long PAT to even the score at 35-35.

 

In the first overtime, Vanderbilt seized the lead on an eight-yard run by sophomore Jeff Jennings. The Gators responded on their possession with a touchdown when Leak hooked up with junior Chad Jackson (Hoover, Ala.) on third down and eight for a nine-yard completion that tied the score and forced another extra session.

 

In the second overtime, Florida opened the drive with a nine-yard rush by freshman Markus Manson (Tuscaloosa, Ala.). On the next play, Cornelius pulled down the 16-yard pass from Leak and the Gators waited out a review of the replay upstairs before junior Chris Hetland (Leesburg, Ga.) booted the point after to put the hosts on top, 49-42. On the Commodores' first play on their second turn of the overtime, Lewis made his first career interception on the sideline in front of UF's bench to secure the victory.

 

Vanderbilt took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards on six plays to grab a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard pass from Cutler to Earl Bennett with 12:44 remaining in the first quarter. Soon after, the Gators scored a touchdown on their initial drive for the second-straight game. During the 79-yard, 13-play drive that consumed 7:36, Leak threw 12 yards to sophomore tight end Tate Casey (Longview, Texas) to convert a third-down-and-eight, and Manson darted 16 yards to move the Gators to the 23 yard-line. On first-and-goal at the one-yard-line, Leak dove into the end zone and Hetland connected on the extra point to tie the score.

 

With 2:19 left in the first quarter, senior Vernell Brown (Gainesville, Fla.) intercepted Cutlerís pass to set up the Gators' next scoring drive from the Commodores' 38-yard-line. Facing fourth down and one during the drive, a quarterback sneak by Leak gave the Gators a fresh set of downs at the 27 yard-line. Leak later pitched to Jackson for 10 yards to bring the offense down the eight yard-line. Freshman running back Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) later scored on a nine-yard reception for his second career touchdown and the Gators had a 14-7 lead.

 

Vanderbilt knotted the game at 14-14 with 6:26 remaining in the half on a one-yard TD rush by sophomore Cassen Jackson-Garrison. Cutler completed 16-, 17- and 18-yard passes during the drive, and Jennings contributed a 21-yard rush. The 86-yard, eight-play drive lasted 3:49. Florida attempted a 26-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half to move in front, but Hetland's try was wide left for his first miss of the season following eight-consecutive makes.

 

On Vanderbiltís first possession of the second half, sophomore linebacker Brandon Siler (Orlando, Fla.) made his fifth fumble recovery of the season at the Commodores' 14-yard-line. From the nine-yard-line, Jackson jetted to the end zone and the extra point by Hetland put the Gators ahead, 21-14, with 12:57 remaining in the third quarter.

 

Siler recovered another fumble, his sixth of the season, to end Vanderbilt's next drive. The SEC leader in fumble recoveries returned the ball 14 yards to the Commodores' 46- yard-line. Leak completed a 12-play scoring drive with his second one-yard scamper of the night to put the Gators ahead, 28-14, with 3:51 remaining in the period.

 

Vanderbilt narrowed the margin to seven points with 12:49 left in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard pass from Cutler to senior Erik Davis. The Gators then chewed up 8:38 with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a two-touchdown advantage. The score came on Manson's first career TD, a two-yard rush. Facing third and 10 during the drive, Manson made a 16-yard dash for a first down at the 50-yard-line, and Moore carried twice (13 and 11 yards) to move his squad's offense down to the 10-yard-line.

 

Florida totaled 448 yards of offense in the contest, gaining 257 yards through the air and 191 yards on the ground. Manson finished with 61 yards on 18 carries and had six receptions for 48 yards. Jackson paced the Gators for the eighth time in nine games this season with 53 yards on eight carries and contributed a touchdown rushing and receiving. For Vanderbilt, Davis had a game-high 127 yards receiving on eight catches, while Jennings totaled 50 yards on eight rushes. The Commodores rolled up 419 yards of total offense, 361 in the air but managed only 58 yards rushing on 25 attempts. UF controlled the time of possession, 34:41-25:12.

 

The Gators return to action next Saturday against South Carolina (6-3/4-3 SEC) at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The game will air on Jefferson-Pilot Sports at 12:30 p.m.

 

-UF-

 

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