6:00 PM ET, August 30, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida coach Ron Zook surprised everyone, and decided to start not one quarterback, but two. That bit of trickery didn't work, although just about everything else his team tried did.
The Gators blocked a punt to set up a touchdown, returned interceptions for two more, and quarterbacks Ingle Martin, Gavin Dickey and Chris Leak all threw touchdown passes Saturday in a 65-3 victory over San Jose State.
It was a successful opening night that helped the Gators prepare for the start of the "real" season, next week at No. 3 Miami. Based on what he saw against San Jose State (1-1), Zook said Martin will probably get the start.
"There's no question Ingle played a great game," Zook said. "But I've said it all along, there's nothing wrong with playing more than one quarterback."
Heading into the opener, Zook kept his starting quarterback a secret, and when the Gators' offense ran onto the field, he had Martin, a sophomore, take the snap and Dickey, a redshirt freshman, line up at receiver.
The idea was to try a double reverse, with Dickey getting the ball and throwing a pass back to Martin. The play was frighteningly similar to the one Zook called that cost the Gators the Outback Bowl last season. Trailing by 8 and driving with seconds left against Michigan, the trick play resulted in receiver Vernell Brown throwing an interception in a desperate attempt to get the ball to quarterback Rex Grossman.
This result wasn't much better: Left tackle Tavares Washington fanned on a block, allowing a defender to stuff Ran Carthon for a 7-yard loss before he could hand the ball to Dickey.
"It had been in the plan for a while," Zook said. "It was there, but Tavares missed a block."
Turned out, that was the Gators' biggest problem on a night full of big plays.
Jermaine McCollum blocked a punt at the Spartans 2 to set up Florida's first touchdown. Carthon ran for a pair of 2-yard scores and Kelvin Kight caught two touchdowns.
On defense, Guss Scott scored on a 38-yard interception return and Tre Orr had a 73-yard pick for a touchdown. The defense, under new coordinator Charlie Strong, allowed only 185 yards and 11 first downs.
Now, it's up to Zook to figure out how to dole out time at quarterback.
Playing about two series to every one for Leak, Martin finished 14-for-23 for 196 yards, and a 21-yard touchdown to Kight. He was efficient, but threw a number of off-target passes and even drew a smattering of boos in the second quarter when the Gators were ahead only 6-3.
Martin rated his performance only "a 5 or 6" on a scale of 1-to-10.
"I didn't really get the feel tonight," he said.
Leak, the highly touted freshman, went 10-for-14 for 111 yards, and threw the ball with more authority than Martin. He celebrated the first TD pass of his college career -- a 16-yarder to Kight -- by jumping up and down, then sprinting downfield to congratulate the receiver.
"I was just glad to be out there having fun," he said. "My goal is still to become the starter, and that's what I'm going to work at."
Dickey didn't line up at quarterback until the start of the fourth quarter. He went 3-for-4 with an interception and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Chad Jackson off a screen.
Overall, Florida gained 512 yards and scored its most points since a 71-13 win over Vanderbilt in 2001.
"If we can get that kind of production rotating quarterbacks, I'd like to keep it this way all year," offensive lineman Shannon Snell said.
Not that it was too hard to look good against overmatched San Jose State, the Western Athletic Conference school that won at Illinois last season on its way to a 6-7 record.
Spartans quarterback Scott Rislov, who threw for 3,251 yards last year, had trouble getting the ball downfield. He went 13-for-27 for 57 yards.
"We thought we had a chance to win this football game," Spartans coach Fitz Hill said. "Early on, things didn't go our way, and they are a fast and big football team."
The game was played before 90,011 fans at The Swamp, courtesy of a $55 million expansion project completed this month. The crowd was the largest to see a football game in the state of Florida.