Meyer makes a gutsy call

Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 9:34 p.m.

It would be hard to argue that Florida coach Urban Meyer has made his mark in the last two seasons. Surprisingly though, some of the biggest plays have not come from his esteemed spread option offense, but from special teams.

In Meyer’s first SEC challenge, he baited Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer into faking a punt, which put the Gators in scoring position when it failed.

The Gators benefited from gutsy faked punts of their own, and special teams dominance led to a blowout win against FSU in 2005 and a close win this year.

"It is what it is," UF coach Urban Meyer said after surviving Florida State. "We're a bunch of scrapping, fighting guys who find a way to put a drive together in the fourth quarter and win.

A key moment in the victory over FSU came on special teams when punter Eric Wilbur pinned the Seminoles’ offense within their own 5 yard line.

The trend continued throughout 2006, but never did Meyer show a call as gutsy as the one called deep in Gator territory, with momentum against them in the SEC Championship Game.

Florida jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but a pair of Chris Leak interceptions helped the Razorbacks take a 21-17 lead in the third quarter.

With momentum heavily in Arkansas’ favor, and the Gator offense sputtering to a 4th down on their own 15 yard-line, Meyer made a totally unexpected call.

The play is called Blitz Set Nine. It's a fake punt Florida ran successfully last year at Alabama.

On the fake, Jemalle Cornelius came around from the right side and took a pitch from punter Eric Wilbur in the backfield and motored around the left side of the line for a 17-yard gain.

Meyer explained afterward why he decided to go for it.

"We're going to shoot everything we got," he said. "I'm always one of those guys where if we're losing, we're going to shoot everything we got."

Meyer said he had complete confidence the play would work.

While the play did not result directly in points for Florida, a play that followed on the Gators’ next punt changed the momentum of the game and put them up for good.

Arkansas backup returner, Reggie Fish, inexplicably tried to field the punt close to the goal line. He couldn’t make the catch, and the ball rolled into the end zone, where Wondy Pierre-Louis recovered it for a Gator touchdown.

Meyer said he considered faking it again after calling a timeout, but his assistants talked him out of it.

Good thing they did.

"I knew we could get it," Cornelius said. "I didn't expect him to call it so deep in our territory, but I had confidence we could get it."

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