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AROUND THE NATION | OUTBACK BOWL

Brown Gets Credit in 31-24 Florida Win

January 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — When Urban Meyer talks about Florida football, he singles out Vernell Brown.

"If there's a poster or something out there that says 'Florida Gators,' I want his mug right there," Meyer said after Brown, who broke his leg two months ago, came back Monday and scored on an interception to help Florida beat No. 25 Iowa, 31-24, in the Outback Bowl.

"I want people to see Vernell Brown," the coach said of his senior cornerback. "He's what we stand for."

Chris Leak threw for 277 yards, and Dallas Baker scored on passes of 24 and 38 yards and finished with 10 catches for 147 yards for the 16th-ranked Gators (9-3). With the victory, Meyer matched Ray Graves (1960) and Steve Spurrier (1990) for most victories for a coach in his first season at Florida.

Brown, who broke his left leg against Vanderbilt on Nov. 5 and sat out the last two games of the season, picked off an overthrown pass and returned it 60 yards. Tremaine McCollum ran six yards with a blocked punt for another touchdown to help the Gators build a 24-7 halftime lead.

"Vernell Brown's a guy who was told 'You can't do this, you can't do that.' Broke leg. Told he won't be back," Meyer said. "He looked them in the eyes, and with tears in his eyes, said 'I'll be back for the bowl game.' He was back for the bowl game and played his heart out."

Drew Tate and the Iowa offense moved the ball, but the blocked punt on the fifth play of the game, Brown's interception and two costly penalties during an 80-yard touchdown drive Florida put together just before the half left the Hawkeyes (7-5) in a hole too deep to escape.

Tate completed 32 of 55 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He rallied his team from a 31-7 deficit in the fourth quarter with touchdown throws of four and 14 yards to Ed Hinkel, then moved Iowa into position for a 45-yard field goal to pull the Hawkeyes within a touchdown with 1:24 remaining.

The Gators, in their third Outback Bowl in four years, had not ended a season with a win since beating Maryland in the 2002 Orange Bowl.

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