Rough Ride Continues

Florida drops its second consecutive game in The Swamp as Ole Miss takes advantage of three fourth-quarter interceptions....

As Florida's players impatiently waited on their alma mater to play before leaving their field, not even senior Shannon Snell, the most talkative Gator of all, had any words to explain this one.

Not after this loss. Not on this field. Not against this team.

"I don't know what to say right now," Snell said. "I'm in shock."

He needed not utter another sentence. This time, the facts speak for themselves. For the first time since 1988, Florida dropped its second consecutive game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against Ole Miss on Saturday, 20-17.

Against the nation's worst pass defense, the Gators gagged on three fourth quarter interceptions allowing the Rebels to upset Florida in as stunning fashion as the year before.

As a result, the Gators will fall out of both Top 25 polls for the first time in 226 weeks.

"We're embarrassed," said tailback Ran Carthon. "We're 3-3 and no one knows what that feels like around here."

The Gators might begin getting used to the feeling. Their schedule won't get any easier. In the next three weeks, Florida will play three teams ranked among the nation's top 12.

Just to finish the season better than .500, the Gators must pull off at least one upset in addition to defeating South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

"We're not done," Zook said. "We're only done if we say we're done. We need to get this football team back together and get back to work."

In the meantime, the Gators will first evaluate what went so wrong against a 12-point underdog. For starters, Zook once again will reevaluate his quarterback situation after true freshman Chris Leak finished 14-for-27 with 234 yards.

Leak looked brilliant at times, heaving a 52-yard pass on the run to O.J. Small. And other times, like the missed snap that led to a 15-yard loss on the previous play, the freshman looked his age.

Despite some impressive moments, Leak's three interceptions in the fourth quarter essentially cost the Gators the game.

"There are going to be games like this when I'm going to be struggling," Leak said. It's just that no one expected him to struggle against this pass defense, which allowed 661 yards last week against Texas Tech.

"Anytime you play a young guy like that, things are going to happen," Zook said. "We've tried to make the offense quarterback-friendly for him. He didn't come out and play the way he needed to in the second half."

But instead of attacking Ole Miss' weak pass defense with an air assault, Zook's offensive approach looked to the running game first. The Gators went to the ground on 23 of 30 first-down plays.

"Just because their stats aren't very good against the pass doesn't mean they're not going to practice and get better," Zook said. "We didn't go out and execute the way we needed to, but we wanted to run the football."

When Florida did heave passes, the offense was relatively successful early on. Tight end Ben Troupe picked up 63 yards on four plays – one of which may have been the most impressive of the season.

The senior caught the ball on a crossing route, then leaped over a defender and broke another tackle for an 18-yard touchdown. The play capped off a 74-yard drive, the longest of the day.

Oddly enough, though, Troupe didn't see a reception through the entire second half.

"A couple of times, he was open but we didn't get the ball to him," Zook said. "He's a weapon that we wanted to get the ball to."

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators had a 17-13 lead. But Leak threw two interceptions on the first two drives.

Eventually, Florida's defense wore down, allowing the Rebels to top the game off with a 50-yard drive and a three-point lead.

"This is very embarrassing," Florida defensive end Bobby McCray said. "If you don't hurt deep down inside, you don't love the game of football."


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