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Monday January 2, 2006Football Defeats Iowa In The Outback Bowl, 31-24

Tampa, FL

The Gator football team defeated the University of Iowa, 31-24, at The 2006 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in front of 65,881 fans on Monday afternoon. In finishing 9-3 overall, Urban Meyer’s team became the first in school history to defeat Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State and win its bowl game in the same season.


Senior wide receiver Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) was chosen as the game’s Most Valuable Player after posting the second-highest receiving yardage total in Outback Bowl history with 147 yards. He posted career highs in yardage and receptions (10) and matched a personal best with touchdown receptions of 24 and 38 yards.


After the Gators forced Iowa three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, junior Jemalle Cornelius (Fort Meade, Fla.) blocked the punt attempt by Hawkeye junior Andy Fenstermaker. Junior Tremaine McCollum (Miami, Fla.) then picked up the loose ball and scampered six yards into the end zone on UF’s fifth blocked kick of the season. The score marked the first time in Florida’s 33 bowl appearances that the Gators had blocked a punt for a touchdown. Junior Chris Hetland (Leesburg, Ga.) tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead just 1:35 into the game.


UF moved ahead 10-0 with 9:31 remaining in the second quarter on a 21-yard field goal by Hetland. The kick capped off a 15-play, 53-yard drive for the Orange and Blue that lasted 7:23. Junior Chris Leak (Charlotte, N.C.) was 3-for-4 on the drive for 23 yards and Hetland atoned for a 23-yard attempt that was wide right earlier.


With 1:57 remaining until the half, senior Vernell Brown (Gainesville, Fla.) picked off a pass from Iowa junior quarterback Drew Tate and raced 60 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown and a 17-0 lead. Brown’s third career pick marked the Gators’ first interception return since Keiwan Ratliff had a 52-yard TD versus Vanderbilt on Nov. 8, 2003.


Set up by a 47-yard kickoff return by sophomore Damian Sims to Florida’s 39-yard line, the Hawkeyes narrowed the deficit to 17-7 with 1:10 left in the second quarter on a 20-yard pass from Tate to senior Clinton Solomon.


The Gators countered with a quick drive of their own, culminated by a 24-yard, acrobatic catch by senior Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) with one tick on the clock before the break. Florida covered 80 yards in eight plays and was aided by a running into the punter penalty on fourth down that extended the drive. On the next play, Leak rushed for two yards and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Iowa put the ball on the Hawkeyes’ 37-yard line. Following a six-yard reception by Baker and a timeout with 13 seconds left, Leak found Baker for seven yards to the 24-yard line. On the next play, the quarterback found his teammate again down the right sideline just past the pylon for his 19th passing touchdown of the campaign. Although the play was reviewed to ensure that Baker was in bounds, the receiver’s fourth TD reception of the year was upheld.


The Leak-Baker combination worked to perfection for Florida’s first score of the second half, as Baker hauled in a 38-yard reception with 5:23 left in the third frame and hit pay dirt for a 31-7 UF cushion. Baker’s second touchdown of the afternoon not only matched his career high, established against Arkansas on Oct. 2, 2004, it enabled him to exceed 100 yards receiving for the third time this season and in his career.


Following a muffed punt by junior Chad Jackson (Hoover, Ala.) that was recovered by Iowa at UF’s five-yard line, the Hawkeyes narrowed the gap to 31-14 on a four-yard pass from Tate to senior Ed Hinkel with 13:51 remaining in the contest. Tate connected with Hinkel again at the 6:59 mark of the final quarter on a 14-yard pass which capped a nine-play, 72-yard march down the field by the Iowa offense to bring the Hawks within 10 points.


Iowa’s defense stepped up on the next Florida drive to stop the Gators on their own 30-yard line to take over the ball after UF failed to convert on fourth down and six. Another nine-play Hawkeye drive ended with a 45-yard field goal by junior Kyle Schlicher to bring Iowa within a touchdown at 31-24 as the clock read 1:24 to play in the game.


A penalty called on Iowa after it recovered its own onside kick on the next play pushed the Hawkeyes back five yards and forced them to re-kick. Jackson took control of the onside kick the second time around to erase any hopes of an Iowa comeback.


Leak finished 25-of-40 for 278 yards and two touchdowns, the fourth time this season he has passed for multiple scores. In addition to Baker’s 10 receptions, Jackson caught seven passes for 76 yards and extended his SEC-leading streak to 24 straight games with a reception. Freshman Kestahn Moore (Arlington, Texas) led the Gators with a career-high 88 yards on 13 carries.


For Iowa, Tate was 32-for-55 for 346 yards and three touchdowns, while Hinkel made nine receptions for 87 yards and scored twice. Hawkeye senior linebacker Abdul Hodge set an Outback Bowl record with 19 tackles, 14 solo, while junior Dee Webb (Jacksonville, Fla.) had a team-high 10 tackles for the Gators. Florida junior punter Eric Wilbur (Winter Park, Fla.) averaged 46.3 yards per kick, highlighted by a UF bowl record punt of 63 yards.




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