6:00 PM ET, September 3, 2005
BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM, GAINESVILLE, FL
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Chris Leak's record-setting night wasn't good enough for Florida coach Urban Meyer.
Leak completed 26 of 34 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, broke Steve Spurrier's school record for consecutive completions and led the No. 10 Gators to a 32-14 victory over Wyoming in Meyer's debut Saturday.
But Meyer wanted more from his junior quarterback.
"In case you're wondering what the offense should look like, that wasn't it," Meyer said, sounding a little like the Ol' Ball Coach. "We have got a lot of work to do. Chris Leak and the offense has a long way to go."
The offense did sputter at times. Leak was sacked four times and there were two errant snaps for losses. But the unit made several big plays and scored touchdowns on three passes from Leak to Chad Jackson. The receiver finished with 10 catches for 138 yards and added a 5-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
"We have great chemistry together," Leak said. "That's just the close relationship we have."
The defense was equally sharp. Yes, Florida's defense. Nearly the same unit that collapsed in losses to Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State last season looked much improved against the Cowboys (0-1), who returned nine starters on an offense that ranked 36th in the nation in passing last season.
Defensive end Ray McDonald put steady pressure on quarterback Corey Bramlet. Linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett made tackles all over the field. And cornerback Vernell Brown intercepted a pass and had several deflections, showing one reason why Meyer dubbed him "the face of Florida football."
The defense might have overshadowed Leak had the quarterback not received so much offseason and preseason attention regarding the new scheme.
Meyer said the one question he was asked more than any other when he spoke to 13,000 fans at 18 different Gator Club gatherings this summer was whether Leak could direct the same offense that made Alex Smith the top pick in the NFL draft.
Leak showed he could Saturday -- to everyone except Meyer.
Leak called audibles -- which he didn't do the last two years -- made good decisions while running the option and was most effective from the pocket. He also made the school record book as Florida won its 16th consecutive season opener.
Leak completed 17 consecutive passes between the first and third quarters, breaking Spurrier's mark set in 1966. Spurrier hit 16 in a row at Florida State on Oct. 8, 1966, then matched his mark the following week at North Carolina State.
"I keep hearing that Chris completed 17 consecutive passes. I must have been watching something else when that happened," Meyer said. "I was so upset we weren't going up and down the field. I'm not a very optimistic person. I always look at the negative."
Although Leak's on-target performance included many shovel passes to receivers and running backs, it also had a few perfectly thrown deep balls.
He underthrew Andre Caldwell on Florida's first play of the game, then short-hopped a pass to Jemalle Cornelius on the next drive. But he settled down on the third possession.
"All you have to do is get the ball in the area and they'll go get," Leak said. "If you get the ball in their hands, they can break tackles and make plays."
Leak hit Jackson with a 23-yard pass that gave the Gators their first first down. A few plays later, he connected with Jackson down the sideline for a 26-yard score the receiver nabbed with one hand.
The duo hooked up again for a 7-yard score on the following drive, and Leak found Jackson again for a touchdown to start the third quarter.
"Once he learns all the offensive schemes, he's going to be hard to stop," Wyoming receiver Jovon Bouknight said of Leak.
The Cowboys struggled early, trailing 23-0 before getting on the scoreboard following a 66-yard kickoff return by Bouknight.
Four plays after converting on fourth-and-3 from the Florida 27, Bramlet scored from 4 yards out. Bouknight's 18-yard TD reception with about five minutes to play made it 32-14.
"The story of the game was execution," Bouknight said. "Florida was able to execute plays and get the ball in the end zone. Most of their plays were big ones."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Chad Johnson caught his third TD pass from Chris Leak early in the third quarter to make it 23-0. No way Wyoming was rallying from that much down against the Gator defense.
Gameball goes to... Florida QB Chris Leak. While the defense played well, all eyes were on Leak to see if he could handle Urban Meyer's offense. Does 26-of-34 for 320 yards and 3 TDs answer that question?
Stat of the game... 17: Number of consecutive passes Leak completed between the first and third quarters, breaking Spurrier's mark set in 1966. Spurrier hit 16 in a row at Florida State on Oct. 8, 1966, then matched his mark the following week at North Carolina State.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-13||4-12|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||0-0|
|TD||0:21||CHAD JACKSON 26 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (CHRIS HETLAND KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||8:47||CHAD JACKSON 7 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (CHRIS HETLAND KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 41 yards.
|FG||5:21||CHRIS HETLAND 40 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 61 yards.
|TD||11:44||CHAD JACKSON 26 YD PASS FROM CHRIS LEAK (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||7:08||COREY BRAMLET 4 YD RUN (DERIC YAUSSI KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 34 yards.
|FG||3:11||CHRIS HETLAND 47 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 22 yards.
|TD||7:49||CHAD JACKSON 5 YD RUN (FAILED 2PT RUSH)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 43 yards.
|TD||4:43||JOVON BOUKNIGHT 18 YD PASS FROM COREY BRAMLET (DERIC YAUSSI KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 76 yards.