Saturday October 2, 2004Leak Passes Gators Over Arkansas, 45-30
Sophomore Chris Leak passed for a career-high 322 yards and three touchdowns to lead Florida to a 45-30 victory over Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium before 90,014 fans. It was the first 300-yard passing game of Leak's career as the Gators (3-1/2-1 SEC) defeated the Razorbacks (3-2/1-1 SEC) for the fifth time in a row. UF scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives in the first half, including a 28-point outburst in the second quarter, to build a 35-7 halftime advantage.
UA scored 23 straight points to pull within 38-30 in the fourth quarter before an interception by sophomore Channing Crowder with 4:24 remaining set up the final scoring play, a two-yard pass from Leak to junior Dallas Baker. Baker had a team-high six receptions on the afternoon for 89 yards and set a personal-best with two touchdowns.
Locked in a scoreless tie, Leak and the Gator offense found the end zone for the first time with 1:36 remaining in the first quarter, as junior Ciatrick Fason had a one-yard touchdown run to cap a seven-play, 73-yard drive. Key plays included a 39-yard pass from Leak to sophomore Chad Jackson and a 12-yard reception on third-and-nine by senior O.J. Small that brought Florida to the UA 17-yard line. Fason charged 16 yards down to the one and then provided UF with a 7-0 lead on the next play.
After forcing the Razorbacks to punt, the Gators used a two-play, 80-yard drive to extend their lead to 14-0. Leak completed a slant pass to Small for 19 yards and then UF executed a reverse that sophomore Andre Caldwell completed by racing 61 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown. Leak had pitched the ball to Fason, who then tossed it to teammate Caldwell. Weaving through a swarming Arkansas defense, Caldwell's run was the longest by a Gator this season.
Arkansas countered with a 10-play, 89-yard drive to narrow the deficit to 14-7 on a 1-yard run by De'Arrius Howard with 6:02 remaining in the first half. The Gators answered with a long scoring drive of their own, moving 80 yards on four plays before Leak hit Baker with a 34-yard touchdown strike for a 21-7 cushion.
On Arkansas' first play after the kickoff, junior Jarvis Herring intercepted Matt Jones' pass to give the Gators possession at the Arkansas 24-yard line. Facing a third-and-10, Leak found Baker to move UF down to the 11-yard line. Fason took a couple of handoffs from Leak and wound up scoring his second touchdown of the contest from three yards out.
Florida would enter the locker room with a 35-7 bulge when Leak connected on a 48-yard scoring strike with sophomore wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius with just 45 seconds left in the half. The Gators totaled their 35 points on 42 plays in the first half.
Arkansas rallied with touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, including a pair of successful two-point-conversion attempts, to move within 38-30 in the fourth quarter. Following Matt Leach's 37-yard field goal that put the Gators ahead, 38-7, Jones led the Hogs on an 80-yard drive that ended on a 12-yard touchdown run by DeCori Birmingham.
Jones later scored on a 25-yard run and made the two-point conversion, closing Florida's advantage to 38-22. Following a Gator punt, Jones found Marcus Monk for a seven-yard score, and they also hooked up for the two-point conversion with 6:47 remaining. After the Arkansas defense forced UF three plays and out, Jones would misfire on a second-and-12 pass that Crowder would intercept to seal the Gators' victory. Seven players later, Baker would finalize the 15-point margin with the two-yard TD reception.
Leak finished 23-of-38 for 322 yards, while Fason had 62 yards on 18 carries. Led by Baker's six catches, a total of seven Gators had multiple receptions. Jones was 23-of-39 for 252 yards and one touchdown but had three interceptions. He also led Arkansas with 68 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Florida will face defending national champion LSU next Saturday night at 7:45 p.m. at the Swamp. The game will be carried nationally on ESPN.