Fason's UF run is done

UF junior running back Ciatrick Fason rushes for 94 yards on 17 carries on Friday night.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
ATLANTA - All good college careers must come to an end, but surely Florida tailback Ciatrick Fason had hoped it would have ended a bit differently.
Fason rushed for 94 yards and gained 40 more receiving Friday night, but it wasn't enough in a 27-10 loss to Miami in the Peach Bowl.
"This loss hurt a lot," Fason said. "I never won a championship in high school and never won a bowl game in three years. I wanted to go out with a state championship, beating both Florida State and Miami the same year, but it didn't work out that way."
Still, Fason has no regrets about declaring as an underclassmen for the NFL Draft. The third-year junior currently ranks as the fifth-highest running back by draft analysts on, which would likely land him in the second or third round.
"No matter what, I tried to play as hard as I can every game," Fason said. "I left it out there."
Fason's void next season could be difficult to fill. Redshirt freshman Skyler Thornton rushed 7 times for 18 yards. Sophomore DeShawn Wynn didn't play.
"I expect both of them to step up, the way I did last season when I was second on the depth chart," Fason said.
Fason's long run of the game came on a 22-yarder off an option pitch from Florida quarterback Chris Leak. Fason rushed for 77 yards in the first half, but Florida could generate little else offensively in the face of a relentless Miami pass rush. Senior receiver O.J. Small finished with 8 catches for 92 yards, but Leak was unable to get the big strike downfield until he hit Jemalle Cornelius on a 45-yard touchdown strike late in the third quarter.
Leak was sacked four times in the first half and hurried numerous other times. Some of the problems were contributed to the emergency start of senior Anthony Guerrero at right tackle. Guerrero filled in for senior Jonathan Colon, who was hobbled with the flu.
"I think it was more us having to make personnel changes on our line than their speed," said outgoing Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora. "We could have afforded to lose a guard, but we couldn't afford to lose a tackle."
Fason clutched his white No. 4 jersey for the last time during his postgame press conference under the tunnel at the Georgia Dome. When asked what he planned to do with it, Fason replied, "Put it in a frame, for my mother."
Offense D


Florida ignored Ciatrick Fason early in the game but he did get it going to manage 94 yards on 17 carries. The Gators' best weapon running the ball turned out to be quarterback Chris Leak, although he took off running too often.


The failure of the passing game to get going was a combination of an offensive line that struggled, a quarterback who was off and receivers who didn't make tough catches.


Florida scored only one touchdown against a defense that had struggled most of the season.
Defense B


Frank Gore was hoping that a big game would help him make a decision on the NFL, but Florida's defense kept the running back from breaking a big one and kept him out of the end zone.


Unlike last year, it wasn't Brock Berlin who stuck it to the Gators. Berlin was shaky at best, completing 13 of 24 passes for 171 yards. He threw one interception and should have had at least two more. He did hit some big passes in the second half that kept the momentum in Miami's corner.


The defense limited Miami to four first-half first downs and came up with two turnovers.
Special teams F


The turning point of the game was Matt Leach's first-quarter field goal getting blocked. Eric Wilbur's line-drive punt set up Roscoe Parrish's return for a score. And Leach missed a field goal late in the first half.


As usual, Florida did nothing special running back kicks, but the Gators did get an early turnover on a blocked punt. Giving up Parrish's punt return was a killer.


Special teams put Florida in a first-half hole that the Gators couldn't climb out of.
Coaching D


The plays that Larry Fedora used to have the SEC's top offense suddenly didn't work, in part because Florida's quarterback had a tough night. Defensively, Charlie Strong had a better night as coordinator than he did as a head coach.


Strong said he wasn't going to go for any more fourth downs than any other coach would, but he did it twice. Both times the result was a first down - although one came back because of a penalty.


Florida looked like a team that was as dysfunctional as its coaching staff.
Overall D- The Gators had a chance to end this season on a memorable note, but fell flat.

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