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INSIDE SLANT

When Florida finished 9-3 in its first season under Urban Meyer and lost road games at Alabama, LSU and South Carolina, Meyer challenged his players to become mentally and physically tougher.

When the Gators fell behind 10-0 at home to Alabama and took over at their own 5-yard line with 7:13 left in the first half, Meyer challenged them again.

The Gators responded with a hard-nosed 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive covering 5:28.

"We were dead in the water," Meyer said. "I think that 95-yard drive really turned things around for us."

The fifth-ranked Gators went on to outscore Alabama 21-3 in the second half for a 28-13 win that showed some of the toughness Meyer demanded in the offseason.

"I'd like to thank our players. They toughed it out. They were challenged on their toughness about two million times at the beginning of the season, and that's now two games that they've come from behind to win," Meyer said, referring to a 21-20 win over Tennessee on Sept. 16.

"The first quarter was awful. We had the intent to run the ball because they were playing a three-man front, but didn't have much success. Once we got this thing going, we did well."

The Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) got it going on offense by using all of their available weapons and mixing quarterbacks Chris Leak and Tim Tebow effectively. On the 95-yard touchdown drive, Leak shocked both Alabama and his own team with a 45-yard run on a quarterback draw. Then Tebow came in and right over the Tide for a 2-yard touchdown.

Defensively, the pass defense still showed signs of being vulnerable at times, allowing 240 yards, but the Gators also recorded three sacks, kept constant pressure on Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson and intercepted three of his passes.

Add it together and Florida looked like a team capable of adding to its strong start when it plays host to LSU on Saturday.

"It's no secret that we've got some very good players," Meyer said, "and that we're developing some depth around here."

NOTES, QUOTES

   GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Chris Leak -- One week after the Florida fans booed his return to the game, Leak responded by completing 14 of 20 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions, and by running for a 45-yard gain that set up Florida's first touchdown.

   KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Tim Tebow -- His average of 2.8 yards per carry fails to explain his value to the team, especially in short yardage. After Leak's big run, Tebow came in and ran through the Alabama for a 2-yard touchdown. He carried nine times for 28 yards and completed his only pass attempt for 23 yards.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "Wow! Chris Leak had a 45-yard run. Chris' run was beautiful, and it was a designed play." -- Florida coach Urban Meyer.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

   LOOKING GOOD: FS Reggie Nelson -- His 70-yard interception return for a touchdown put the game away in the fourth quarter.

CB Ryan Smith -- Smith, a transfer from Utah in his first season at Florida, intercepted two passes, both off deflections, and almost came down with a third.

WR Andre Caldwell -- With versatile WR Percy Harvin sidelined, Caldwell came through with a big play, taking a screen pass 16 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

   DE Jarvis Moss -- He finished with seven tackles and 1 1/2 sacks even though he spent a lot of time dropping into coverage.

STILL NEEDS WORK: K Chris Hetland -- After another missed field goal attempt, this one from 36 yards, he has yet to make one in three tries this season.

TB Kestahn Moore -- When starting TB DeShawn Wynn suffered a knee injury early in the second half, Moore carried only five times for 20 yards.

   ROSTER REPORT: Just when TB DeShawn Wynn was making a big impact for the Gators with two consecutive 100-yard games and 50 rushing yards in a little more than a half against Alabama, he suffered a right knee injury early in the second half and didn't return. His status for the LSU game remains uncertain.

If Wynn can't play, the Gators will need more than Kestahn Moore against LSU. They used true freshman punt returner Brandon James for the first time as a tailback, with one carry for 4 yards. Sophomore Markus Manson has not lived up to the coaches' expectations, so the coaches might turn to freshmen Chevon Walker and Mon Williams.

Freshman WR Percy Harvin (ankle) was in uniform but didn't play against Alabama. He played only one play the week before against Kentucky.

Previous Report: 09/26/2006


 

 

 


 
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