Originally created 01/03/06

Gators fend off pesky Hawkeyes

TAMPA, Fla. - Chris Leak showed why Florida is confident its spread option offense is capable of carrying the Gators back to national prominence.

Leak threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns Monday, answering lingering questions about his suitability for coach Urban Meyer's offensive scheme in a 31-24 victory over No. 25 Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

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

Vernell Brown, back earlier than expected from a broken leg, returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown, and Tremaine McCollum ran 6 yards with a blocked punt for another TD to help the Gators build a 24-7 halftime lead.

Drew Tate and the Iowa offense had lots of success moving the ball, but a 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 TD throws of 4 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 had not ended a season with a victory since beating Maryland in the Orange Bowl in 2002.


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