Two key touchdowns earn senior wide receiver Dallas Baker the MVP honor
Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 11:57 p.m.
Dallas Baker acknowledged he was a little surprised when Outback Bowl officials handed him the game MVP trophy.
Florida coach Urban Meyer jumped into some good-natured ribbing, telling his starting receiver to stop looking confused.
"I was kind of shocked," Baker said. "I thought (quarterback) Chris (Leak) was going to win it the way he played."
An argument could have been made for either player, but Baker sealed it with his 10 catch, 147-yard, two touchdown afternoon that lifted the Gators over Iowa.
If it was his last game, Baker went out with a bang. Listed as a senior, Baker will find out this spring if he gains a fifth year of eligibility based on his academic records. He sat out his freshman season as a partial qualifier.
His chances for a fifth year look promising based on the 3.0 grade-point average he earned over the summer session. Baker is talking like a player who expects to come back.
"My main focus right now is to improve going into next year," Baker said.
Baker couldn't have done much better than Monday. Matched up against 5-foot-10 cornerback Antwan Allen, Baker used his 6-foot-3 size to his advantage to break free on a number of routes. He caught seven of his career-high 10 catches in the first half, the last an acrobatic 24-yard touchdown grab in the right corner of the end zone with one second remaining.
Baker planted his right leg in bounds before falling out of play to put Florida up 24-7.
"I was happy that I caught the touchdown, but at the same time I was happy that we kept the lead and we were getting the ball to start the second half," Baker said.
Baker added a 38-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to pad Florida's lead to 31-7. His 147 yards receiving were the second most in Outback Bowl history, behind Michael Jenkins, who gained 152 yards through the air for Ohio State in 2002.
Baker credited the strong performance to his work this week in practice with receivers coach Billy Gonzales.
"He stayed on me all week," Baker said. "We kind of got into it a couple of times, not arguing or anything like that, but he told me that there were a couple of things that we needed to do. I did them today and I hope that will carry over."
Meyer was pleased with Baker's performance.
"He's come a long way," Meyer said. "His skills, his work ethic. Maybe he'll pick up where Vernell (Brown) left us."
As the future face of Florida football?
"He's not very good looking," Meyer quipped, then pointing to his goatee said. "Maybe if he shaves that mess a little bit."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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