The stage is set
Published: Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 2:37 a.m.
Their rivals on Rocky Top probably won't be overly impressed with the way the No. 10 Florida Gators tossed around lightweight Louisiana Tech in The Swamp on Saturday night.
But the Gators definitely have given the No. 6 Vols (1-0) more to think about this week heading into Saturday's much-anticipated SEC showdown.
Like, a running game.
And offensive balance.
And a long lost tailback named DeShawn Wynn.
With Wynn rushing for a career-high 101 yards and two touchdowns, the Gators discovered their running game, and their offensive balance, and overwhelmed the Bulldogs 41-3 before a Florida Field crowd of 90,099.
After rushing for only 74 yards in the opener a week ago, the Gators (2-0) entered Saturday's game determined to generate a running game, which they did. UF rushed for 251 yards and achieved the near--perfect balance (251 rushing, 224 passing) that has been a trademark of Urban Meyer's offense over the past several seasons.
"We called the game to try and keep it 50-50 (between the run and the pass)," Meyer said. "We had to get a run game going. We came out running the ball. It was a concerted effort (to run the ball). This offense needs that.
"We were trying to win the game first of all. But we challenged our offense line all week. We told them we were going to do that (run the ball). We need a downhill running game and I think you saw it tonight."
Wynn had a big first half, rushing for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Chris Leak to account for all three of UF's scores in the half.
"He practiced well and deserved an opportunity to play," said Meyer of Wynn, who did not play in the opener. "He's a very talented player. At 230 pounds, he needs to run hard. He's got good speed as well. I'm very impressed with his running."
While the offense improved on its first-game performance and achieved balance, the UF defense continued it's strong play. The Gators held the Bulldogs to 45 yards rushing and only 162 total yards and came up with three interceptions (Kyle Jackson, Dee Webb and Todd McCullough). Louisiana Tech's only score - a 37-yard field goal by Danny Horwedel with 1:23 to play in the first half - was set up by a Leak fumble.
"Our defense is playing really well, just keeping teams out of the end zone," Meyer said. "It doesn't feel like we were ever being threatened. At no time did I feel we were in trouble on defense."
In the first half, the Gators ran the ball better than they passed it. At the half, Leak had attempted only eight passes and completed five for 66 yards and a touchdown. Once the running game was established, it opened things up in the passing game in the second half and Leak finished with 219 yards passing and three touchdowns, one coming on a 4-yard run.
"It's always a good thing when you get the running game going," Leak said. "DeShawn wanted top play for his team. He was going to give it everything he's got. That's what he told me (before the game)."
Now that the Gators have disposed of Wyoming and Louisiana Tech, they can finally turn their focus to Tennessee in what will be a battle of top 10 teams next Saturday night in The Swamp.
"The fact is we probably have a little better players than Wyoming and Louisiana Tech," Meyer said. "We did what we had to do. You do flip the switch this week. We didn't save anything (in the first two games). What we did tonight is execute a little better. Now we have to eliminate mistakes. We better be on our game. We're eager to get started.
"The intensity was OK tonight, but nothing like I imagine it's going to be in seven days."
After having almost no running game in the opening-night win over Wyoming, the Gators quickly established one with Wynn, who was held out of last Saturday's game.
In UF's second offensive series, Wynn got things started with a 50-yard run. Four plays (all Wynn runs) later, Wynn crashed over left tackle for a 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal to give the Gators the early lead.
Most of the remainder of the first half belonged to Wynn and the running game - and the Florida defense, which turned in its second consecutive strong performance of the season.
Wynn rushed for two touchdowns and 82 yards in the half, which is eight yards more than the Gators rushed for as a team in the 32-14 win over Wyoming. Wynn also caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Leak, accounting for all of UF's scores in a 21-3 half.
The Gators put the game away in the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run by Leak and an 80-yard TD toss from Leak to Chad Jackson, who had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game.
After avoiding talk about Tennessee all week, the Gators now are free to focus on Saturday's game.
"We're looking forward to an awesome game," Leak said. "The rivalry is something you can't really explain. You have to witness it yourself. It's a special moment for the players, coaches and famil
You can reach Robbie Andreu by calling 374-5022 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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