GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Chris Leak trudged off the field with his right shoulder hanging motionless by his side.
Florida coach Urban Meyer figured his quarterback was done for the day, maybe longer, after aggravating an injury sustained last week at Alabama. But Leak returned a few plays later and helped the No. 13 Gators rebound from their first loss of the season.
Leak threw for 244 yards -- more than half of them to Dallas Baker -- and Florida bounced back with a lackluster 35-9 victory against lowly Mississippi State on Saturday.
"It's just one of those things that takes time to go away," Leak said, calling the injury a bruise.
But Meyer revealed that Leak hardly practiced all week and had a painkilling injection before kickoff. Leak said he injured his shoulder early against Alabama and vowed to play next week at No. 11 LSU.
"I'm going to go no matter what," he said. "I want to be out there with my guys, getting ready for a big game. When you're out there, you're not even thinking about it. Millions of guys play with pain."
Leak re-injured his shoulder late in the first quarter against Mississippi State and sat out one series, giving all those Florida fans clamoring for freshman Josh Portis to take over Meyer's spread-option offense a glimpse of how it would look.
Portis ran twice for 7 yards, was 1-of-2 passing for 1 yard and the Gators punted.
Leak returned and finished 18-of-33 with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for a score.
"A very courageous guy, a tough guy," Meyer said. "He missed some throws, but hopefully we got to get him right this week coming up. I thought he played, for the circumstances, very good."
The victory allowed the Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) to avenge last year's 38-31 defeat in Starkville, one of the most embarrassing losses in school history that cost coach Ron Zook his job.
Players and coaches didn't spend much time this week talking about revenge, though. They were more concerned about correcting problems that resulted in a 31-3 loss in Tuscaloosa a week ago, a game in which the Gators failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 13 years.
Meyer's offense showed some improvement against Mississippi State but continued a trend of inconsistency primarily because of a shaky offensive line, a weak running game and a quarterback who has yet to fully grasp the spread-option offense.
Defense and special teams were vastly improved, however, although it came against the lowly Bulldogs (2-4, 0-4). Mississippi State has been outscored 123-26 in four conference games (Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida).
"Now we'll just have to put the first half of the season behind us," Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom said. "We'll work hard and focus on coming back in the second half of the season and play a lot better."
Florida's defense -- gashed early and often by the Tide -- finished with six sacks, three turnovers and two safeties. The unit put constant pressure on the quarterbacks and knocked starter Omarr Conner out of the game in the second quarter with a bruised chest.
"Florida brought the house," said backup Mike Henig, who was 9-of-20 for 119 yards and was sacked four times. "They were sending safeties, corners, linebackers and anyone else they could."
Florida's special teams downed four punts inside the 15-yard line, recovered a muffed punt to set up a score and blocked one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The offense needed help early.
Leak threw an interception on the opening drive. Running back Kestahn Moore fumbled twice -- the Gators recovered both -- before getting benched. And Florida scored just once, a field goal, in its first six possessions.
Jonathan Lowe's fumbled punt got the Gators going in the second quarter. DeShawn Wynn scored on the ensuing play, a 13-yard run that included several missed tackles and put the Gators ahead 12-3.
Leak scored on a quarterback keeper in the third to make it 19-3, but Jerious Norwood answered with a career-long 76-yard TD run. Norwood, who ran for 174 yards against Florida last season, finished with 113 yards on the ground.
Leak put the game away with a 15-yard TD pass to Baker, who caught seven passes for a career-high 123 yards and enjoyed his second straight 100-yard game.
"He's turning into our most polished receiver," Meyer said.