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Florida Turns It Around

The Gators dominate Florida State, 34-7, to give them victories over their top three rivals in Meyer's first season.

November 27, 2005|From the Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Urban Meyer's first season at Florida started out promising, turned disappointing and ultimately became successful.

At least compared with recent years.

Chris Leak threw two touchdown passes, the defense created four turnovers and the No. 19 Gators overwhelmed No. 23 Florida State, 34-7, Saturday at the Swamp.

"There's a lot of juice right now from that win," Meyer said.

Florida (8-3) finished undefeated at home for the first time since 2000 and knocked off its top three rivals -- Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State -- in the same season for the first time since 1996.

"That's a big feat," Meyer said. "Our players really thrived on that. They brought it up often."

The Seminoles (7-4) may have reached a new low under longtime Coach Bobby Bowden, losing three in a row for the first time since 1983.

"With the talent on this squad, to go out and play like we did is real embarrassing," quarterback Drew Weatherford said.

Florida State still has a chance to turn the season around, though. It can win the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference championship game next week in Jacksonville and advance to the Orange Bowl.

But few would believe that possible after Florida State's last three games: losses to North Carolina State, Clemson and Florida. The Seminoles were outscored, 89-36.

"I told them we got a ballgame next week as big as this one," Bowden said. "That's all you can do when you get beat."

Florida's victory against its in-state rival was the most lopsided in the series since a 52-20 win in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, which gave the Gators their lone national title.

The Gators dictated the direction of the game early.

Leak capped a 71-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Chad Jackson on the first play of the second quarter.

Jackson finished with nine catches for 97 yards. Leak wasn't particularly precise, completing 19 of 28 passes for 211 yards.

Florida's defense sacked Weatherford five times.

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