TALLAHASSEE, FL — Chief Osceola seemingly set the tone for this contest when he
twice failed to mount his trusty steed after passing the torch to Bill
Durham, visionary of the Seminoles pre-game celebration, for the planting
of “The Spear” into Bobby Bowden Field. What appeared to be a certain
Florida victory turned into a backyard brawl, which was won late by Gators
Things went terribly wrong in the third quarter. Poor field position and a resurgent Florida State football team awakened those dressed in Garnet and Gold among the 83,507 gathered for this bitter family reunion. Furthermore, Florida playmakers Percy Harvin, Reggie Nelson, and DeShawn Wynn went down with injuries- adding to an already hobbling group of Gators.
The Seminoles started their two touchdown drives from their own 44 yard line and the Florida 41 yard line. That’s hardly the formula for success that Florida head coach Urban Meyer had designed.
The Gators won this game in large part, courtesy of a masterful fourth quarter drive led by veteran quarterback Chris Leak, who completed 7 of 8 passes for 79 yards. There were only two running plays in that 10 play drive- a four yard rush for a Florida first down by Leak and a nine yard loss by Andre Caldwell on an end around. Leak drilled the ball to fellow senior Dallas Baker for a 25 yard touchdown pass.
It was an impressive feat considering the ‘Noles hadn’t allowed but one fourth quarter touchdown in the past five games and the struggling Florida offense needed to help their defense, who had picked off Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford on consecutive series to start the second half.
More thoughts, news, and notes on the game…
Reggie Nelson, Reggie Nelson, Reggie Nelson…He should be the Thorpe Award winner. Period. Just watch today’s game. He breaks up Florida State’s patented jump ball offense with a hit on 6-6 senior receiver Greg Carr. Nelson later blitzed up the middle on a 3rd and 11 play and sent a message to quarterback Xavier Lee with a shot to the midsection as the Seminoles were buried at thier own 19 yard line. Lee threw the ball incomplete and the Seminoles were forced to punt. On the first play after the Florida State punt, Percy Harvin took the pitch from Chris Leak and sprinted 41 yards for the Gators second touchdown. Nelson intercepted a Drew Weatherford pass in the third quarter and was briefly injured on the play. He came back to make a touchdown saving tackle on Lorenzo Booker at the one yard line. The ‘Noles scored, but Nelson gave his teammates an opportunity for a goal line stand that would have quieted the Seminole sanctuary once more. He saved the Gators from other Florida State big plays.
In fact, Nelson and stong safety Tony Joiner got into the heads of the Florida State receivers in the first half with a couple of hard hits. If you don’t think the Seminoles were less than enthusiastic to catch the football before understanding where the duo were located you missed a key element to the first half. Just ask Florida State fullback Joe Surratt (6-1 254). Nelson laid him out on Bobby Bowden Field and he required a timeout and assistance before he got up.
Quarterback Chris Leak hit 21 of 34 for 283 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and ran the ball for 17 yards. It was his third victory in a row over the Seminoles. His counterparts at Florida State completed only 18 of 43 passes for 189 yards and a score.
The delay of game penalty the Gators suffered with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter was enormous. Florida led 7-0 and had mounted an 11 play drive for 57 yards to the Florida State 13 yard line. The Gators brought in Tebow on a 4th and 1 play, but ran out the clock and were forced back to the 18 yard line, where Chris Hetland missed the field goal and gave Florida State hope. Harvin scored on the next series to make it 14-0, but it’s doubtful the Seminoles psyche wouldn’t have been in the tank with that first down.
Eric Wilbur’s 64 yard punt changed field position for the Gators with 12:20 left in the third quarter. I thought the tide would change for the gators after that one, but the game actually got a little squirrelly. Weatherford hit tight end Brandon Warren for 23 yards on the FSU possession before Nelson picked him off. Caldwell fumbled on the first play from scrimmage at the Florida 26 yard line. The ball was recovered by Kevin McNeil. Five plays later, with Florida State in the red zone Weatherford was once again picked off, this time by Tre McCollum. The Florida offense was unable to capitalize on either turnover.
The third time is the charm… After passing The Spear to plant in the turf at Bobby Bowden Field, Chief Osceola tried to mount Osceola and failed. He tried again and failed. Finally, he pulled himself aboard on his third attempt. Those practice sessions on the horse in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter must not be paying off.
A big salute to the strong contingent of Florida fans who bought several tickets that were being offered up outside of Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium. Those same fans began to chant “Percy Harvin, Percy Harvin” as the Florida receiver lay on the field in the second quarter. When Reggie Nelson went down after picking off a Drew Weatherford pass the group began chanting, “Reggie, Reggie”. It was loud and clear in the press box Gators!!
Florida must shore up their kickoff coverage. It was poor today.31.3 yards per kickoff return. That is distrubing considering they’re seven days away from facing the best runner in the Southeastern Conference- Darren McFadden.
Meyer said that he told kicker Chris Hetland that he believes he’ll win a ballgame for the Gators before the season is over and to keep his head up. Hetland was 0 for 2 today and has run his season stats to 3 for 12. Meyer said that the kickers will once again compete this week in practice.
Percy Harvin was knocked out by Buster Davis with 2:51 remaining in the second quarter. He was walking around at the half. Harvin was also walking around after the game saying that he is fine.
The Gators 14-0 halftime advantage marked the second consecutive season that Florida has held the Seminoles scoreless in the first half.
Florida State had only two yards of rushing in the first half. Only tailback Lorenzo Booker had positive yardage with seven rushes for 20 yards. Booker finished as the only member of the Seminoles offense with more than four yards of rushing.
The Seminoles were a paltry 3 of 15 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth downs. The Florida defense did what they had to do in this one.
Calling all Gators… Andre Caldwell had eight receptions for 124 yards and a score. Dallas Baker finished with five catches for 84 yards and score. Jemalle Cornelius had four receptions for 44 yards. Baker and Cornelius are seniors. It’s doubtful that Caldwell will return- so a departing trio combined for 252 of Florida’s 283 passing yards Leak’s 66 yard touchdown strike to Caldwell was the longest play the Seminoles defense has given up this season.