Outback Bowl Notebook

Ratliff and Scott forced to sit after missing curfew....

As a result of missing their 11 p.m. curfew Monday, Florida seniors Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott lost their starting jobs for the final game of their collegiate career Thursday.

Ratliff, a first-team All-American cornerback, said he and Scott arrived at the team hotel late after eating at an all-you-can-eat wing joint in Tampa.

The duo, replaced by safety Corey Bailey and cornerback Reynaldo Hill, entered the game with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Coach Ron Zook said the suspension initially was meant to last the full period, but he put them in when Iowa had 1st and 10 on the Gators' 34-yard line.

"I feel like we've let our teammates and coaches down," said Ratliff, who finished the season with nine interceptions. "We made a mistake. It's upsetting that this is how we end our careers."

The absence of Ratliff and Scott could not be directly attributed to the 37-17 routing, as the score was 7-7 when they entered the game.

In an unrelated issue, kicker Matt Piotrowicz only kicked off once in the fourth quarter as a result of a violation of team rules. Zook did not elaborate on the nature of the violation.

BEN WHO?

Widely considered one of the top two tight ends in the nation, senior Ben Troupe finished his career at Florida unlike the season that preceded it. Troupe, who said he will hire an agent within the next two weeks in anticipation of the upcoming NFL Draft, didn't have a single catch in Thursday's game.

Suffering from flu-like symptoms in recent days, the senior struggled to break away from a defense clearly anticipating the offensive threat.

"At first I thought it was double coverage," he said. "But they actually had a triple bracket-type coverage on me. They had the defensive end off the snap. Then they had a linebacker covering me on top with a safety coming down on me.

Troupe said he was disappointed he couldn't finish his collegiate career on a high note. However, he didn't appear frustrated by the lack of opportunities given to him by coaches.

"It's probably a good thing they didn't try to force anything my way, because it probably would have gotten intercepted," Troupe said.

OUT OF MIND

Considering the abundance of standout freshmen at Florida, it's no wonder not many players were fazed by the resignation of former coach Steve Spurrier. Several players said they didn't think his career move has any impact on the Gators' program.

"I don't care what Steve Spurrier does," true freshman linebacker Channing Crowder said. "He can play golf all day and all night for all I care. We love Coach Zook. He's our coach, and he has this program headed in the right direction."

TOUGH HOMECOMING

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell's return to his hometown didn't go quite as the true freshman had hoped. The kick returner struggled to formulate any kind of success, averaging 9.5 yards on four returns.

Caldwell, a former Tampa-Jefferson High standout, dropped two kickoffs and slipped shortly after catching another.

"It's very disappointing," Caldwell said. "I came in here wanting to do a lot more than what I did. I wanted to get into the endzone and make a lot of big plays. I guess I tried to do a little too much, and it didn't work out for me."

LONG PASSES CONNECT

Despite his struggles throughout most of the game, quarterback Chris Leak may have been the most impressive on the lowest percentage passes. Nearly every time Leak threw deep, the true freshman connected.

Most impressively, he hit wide receiver Kelvin Kight in the open field for a 70-yard touchdown. Not only a career long, the pass also was the longest in Outback Bowl history.

The completion also allowed Leak to surpass Danny Wuerffel's record for total passing yards in a season by a freshman.

Following the play, Leak later hit Dallas Baker on a 27-yard pass, but the touchdown was called back for offensive pass interference. Leak hit Baker once more for a 25-yard touchdown.

INJURIES

True freshman linebacker Channing Crowder said he may have broken a bone in his left hand when an Iowa player landed on it. He expected to have it further evaluated today….Kight strained a leg muscle late in the game. He does not expect the injury to cause him any post-season setbacks. ###


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