Leak Drives Gators to Win

Florida's true freshman leads Gators to biggest road comeback in school history...

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Picture this huddle. Florida's players are breathing fast, their future fading faster. There's no spark. No poise. Nothing but an 18-year-old boy working against an 18-point deficit.

Now picture Chris Leak. He's the boy. He's the true freshman playing in his first career start, staring into a circle of older eyes.

"You want to know how he handled it?" said senior wide receiver Kelvin Kight. "He handled it the way [former quarterback] Rex [Grossman] would have. He looked at all of us and told us to just stay calm."

No doubt, Leak made plenty of mistakes in his starting debut. Three sacks and two interceptions put a simple end to that argument. But in the Gators' 24-21 win at Kentucky, the mistakes didn't matter.

That's because it was also Leak who marched his team to three fourth-quarter touchdowns, turning a near disaster into the biggest road comeback in Florida school history.

"He did some things he knows he can't do," Coach Ron Zook said. "But the only way he's going to get experience is if he plays."

Saturday's saga was certainly a start. In four quarters, the least emotional player on Florida's roster was branded by a game stacked with drama.

Leak's afternoon started rough, as he completed just 2-of-5 passes with one interception in the first quarter.

On the second play of the game, the freshman was sacked for a 12-yard loss. And despite obvious attempts to sling more passes downfield, the longest completion of the opening quarter was 7 yards.

"You never saw him change his composure," Zook said. "You never saw him change his emotion. He just got better and better as the game progressed."

Zook said before the game Leak's job wouldn't be in jeopardy if he made those kinds of mistakes. Considering the turn-around, this could be considered Zook's finest decision in four games of questionable calls.

Because when it mattered, when the game was on the line, it was Kentucky senior Jared Lorenzen heaving the game-losing interceptions. And it was Leak spiraling the game-winning touchdowns.

Florida's golden boy finished 20-for-35 with 268 yards. His longest completion was 69-yards, a pass that sailed 50 yards through the air.

"We knew he had the potential to play like that in certain situations," said offensive tackle Max Starks. "That's just part of his demeanor."

But the potential was never the problem. Everyone has always known what Florida true freshman Chris Leak was capable of. He proved that when he set national high school passing records by throwing 15,593 career yards.

Instead, it was the inexperience that struck doubts when Zook demoted Ingle Martin. As Leak said, even at Independence High in Charlotte, N.C., he was never behind by this much.

So while Leak may still have plenty to prove, he left no doubt pressure is no problem.

"18-years-old?" said tight end Ben Troupe. "Getting a win like this? Now, that's huge."

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