Leak hit wide receiver Chad Jackson for 15 and 9 yard completions running the route in the first quarter. Jackson scored the Gators first touchdown on an eight yard skinny post. Florida generated some much needed confidence hitting those passes, as nothing else was breaking the Seminoles early defensive grasp.
Another aid in the Florida victory was the work of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Leon Washington and Antone Smith had flashes of sound running in the first half against the Florida front seven. For those wearing the Garnet and Gold, it has become all too typical for offensive coordinator not to exploit an opposing team's weakness. Bowden seemed perfectly content handing the Gators a Band-Aid and putting the ball in the hands of Weatherford, who clearly is not yet ready to take the reins.
Washington picked up 38 yards on his first six carries. Smith racked up 14 yards on three rushing attempts. Weatherford himself gained eight yards on two carries. Do the math- Florida State ran 11 times for 62 yards on those first carries.
The Seminoles lost 18 yards on three sacks, a quarterback hurry by Jeremy Mincey, and further suffered courtesy of an interception by Avery Atkins by putting the game on Weatherford's shoulders. And that was just in the first half. .
Is it any wonder the Seminole faithful want to rid themselves of Papa's little man?
Undefeated in "The Swamp"
One of the first tasks any team wishes to accomplish is home dominance. The Gators did just that this season under Meyer beating Wyoming (32-14), Louisiana Tech (41-3), Tennessee (16-7), Mississippi State (35-9), Vanderbilt (49-42), and Florida State (34-7).
Jarvis Herring #46 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball after an interception during their game against the Florida State Seminoles on November 26, 2005 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Play of the Game
A special teams play, of course. Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas jumps the gap and blocked a field goal attempt by Florida State kicker Gary Cismesia. Vanderbilt hero Reggie Lewis hauled the ball in a bounce and ran 52 yards for a Florida touchdown. The Gators fed off of the big play and a clear shift in the game's momentum was evident.
The Florida defensive staff cheated Jarvis Herring toward the line of scrimmage all night, hoping that he would help contain the much anticipated Florida State running attack. Herring's presence was obviously noted, as the senior captain finished with a team high nine tackles, including a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. He had seven tackles at the intermission.
Herring's whereabouts seemingly took Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford by surprise. Herring picked off a Weatherford pass in the endzone with the Gators holding a 17-0 lead. On the play, Herring stepped up and in front of the middle, while fellow safety Reggie Nelson dropped deep and took the receiver as he ran into the middle of the endzone. Weatherford didn't have a clue as to what was coming on the play.
The Florida pressure on Weatherford went from sound to pound. The Gators seemingly smelled blood and fed off of their successes. Florida sacked Weatherford five times, led by Jarvis Moss and Earl Everett who each had 1.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Steven Harris and linebacker Brandon Siler each recorded a sack as well.
The Gators also racked up three quarterback hurries and pressured Weatherford to move quickly on several other occasions.
Florida secondary play
The Florida secondary held the Florida State receivers in check. The Seminoles entered the contest with big plays from 6-6 freshman Greg Carr and fellow receiver Willie Reid. Weatherford completed just five passes in the first half with only three going to Florida State wide receivers, and those were passes to the sidelines.
Drew Weatherford #11 of the Florida State Seminoles is sacked by Marcus Thomas #44 of the Florida Gators on November 26, 2005 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Weatherford hit several open receivers late in the contest when the Florida secondary was not blasting the Florida State receivers as they came off of the line of scrimmage.
Coming into the contest with a plus 16, the Gators again created turnovers. Florida picked off Weatherford twice and recovered two Florida State fumbles. One of those fumbles was recovered by linebacker Brandon Siler, his NCAA leading seventh of the season. Their efforts clearly rattled the Seminoles, who lost their composure in the third quarter.
Freshmen cornerback Avery Atkins played very well in his first significant action in the secondary. Atkins challenged Florida State receivers throughout the afternoon and certainly earned some worthy praise. Atkins finished the day with four tackles, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery, and an interception. He almost had another interception later in the game. Atkins also made a couple of very good plays covering kicks.
He made a few freshman mistakes as well. But, Atkins hasn't played this much through the course of the season. His accomplishments today are just a glimpse of his future success.
Chris Leak continues to struggle with inconsistent play. He hit 8 of 11 for 84 yards and a score in the first half, only to miss several open receivers in the second half, where he completed 11 of 17 for one touchdown and an interception. Leak overthrew two more passes that should have been intercepted.
He overthrew, underthrew, and missed golden opportunities where Florida receivers were running open in the middle of the Florida State secondary. More has to be expected of a third year starter. You can't be a big play offense unless you take advantage of these plays. Had Leak been more consistent, the Gators would have put this one away earlier.
For every run that Leak took for a first down, he seemed unaware of the distance needed to pick up the first on others. Again, these should not be deficiencies of a third year starter.
Ground round. That's exactly what Weatherford resembled by the end of the fourth quarter. Weatherford was hardly impressive throwing the ball from the opening whistle. Many of his passes seemed to float out of his hand looking anything like a tight spiral. Once it was evident the Seminoles were going to drop back and throw the ball, Florida's defensive front ran right through the Florida State offensive line and began an assault on Weatherford.
Coach Dan Mullen went downfield more often and I certainly applaud him. The Florida receivers struggled early in the Florida State zone (except the skinny post), but once they figured things out, they beat the ‘Noles repeatedly.
I liked the addition of Phil Trautwein at tight end as a crushing blocker. The transition didn't go as smoothly as the coaches would have liked, but they definitely had plan for Florida State's linebackers.
The Gators also caught the Seminoles by surprise when they went to an empty backfield early in the game. Florida State was forced to call a timeout, their second in the first half. Had the ‘Noles not called for the timeout, it might have been 7-0 much earlier.
Florida offensive line
They struggled throughout the first half and couldn't take control of the game until the fourth quarter. The Seminoles defensive front did a nice job through much of the first half keeping the Gators offense in check. The Florida offensive front began to take control of things in the second half. Despite their early struggles, the worst offensive line play in the game clearly belonged to Florida State.