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Florida's QB triumvirate passes first test

8/31/2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida coach Ron Zook surprised
everyone, and decided to start not one quarterback, but two. That
bit of trickery didn't work, although just about everything else
his team tried did.

The Gators blocked a punt to set up a touchdown, returned
interceptions for two more, and quarterbacks Ingle Martin, Gavin
Dickey and Chris Leak all threw touchdown passes Saturday in a 65-3
victory over San Jose State.

It was a successful opening night that helped the Gators prepare
for the start of the "real" season, next week at No. 3 Miami.
Based on what he saw against San Jose State (1-1), Zook said Martin
will probably get the start.

"There's no question Ingle played a great game," Zook said.
"But I've said it all along, there's nothing wrong with playing
more than one quarterback."

Heading into the opener, Zook kept his starting quarterback a
secret, and when the Gators' offense ran onto the field, he had
Martin, a sophomore, take the snap and Dickey, a redshirt freshman,
line up at receiver.

The idea was to try a double reverse, with Dickey getting the
ball and throwing a pass back to Martin. The play was frighteningly
similar to the one Zook called that cost the Gators the Outback
Bowl last season. Trailing by 8 and driving with seconds left
against Michigan, the trick play resulted in receiver Vernell Brown
throwing an interception in a desperate attempt to get the ball to
quarterback Rex Grossman.

This result wasn't much better: Left tackle Tavares Washington
fanned on a block, allowing a defender to stuff Ran Carthon for a
7-yard loss before he could hand the ball to Dickey.

"It had been in the plan for a while," Zook said. "It was
there, but Tavares missed a block."

Turned out, that was the Gators' biggest problem on a night full
of big plays.

Jermaine McCollum blocked a punt at the Spartans 2 to set up
Florida's first touchdown. Carthon ran for a pair of 2-yard scores
and Kelvin Kight caught two touchdowns.

On defense, Guss Scott scored on a 38-yard interception return
and Tre Orr had a 73-yard pick for a touchdown. The defense, under
new coordinator Charlie Strong, allowed only 185 yards and 11 first
downs.

Now, it's up to Zook to figure out how to dole out time at
quarterback.

Playing about two series to every one for Leak, Martin finished
14-for-23 for 196 yards, and a 21-yard touchdown to Kight. He was
efficient, but threw a number of off-target passes and even drew a
smattering of boos in the second quarter when the Gators were ahead
only 6-3.

Martin rated his performance only "a 5 or 6" on a scale of
1-to-10.

"I didn't really get the feel tonight," he said.

Leak, the highly touted freshman, went 10-for-14 for 111 yards,
and threw the ball with more authority than Martin. He celebrated
the first TD pass of his college career -- a 16-yarder to Kight -- by
jumping up and down, then sprinting downfield to congratulate the
receiver.

"I was just glad to be out there having fun," he said. "My
goal is still to become the starter, and that's what I'm going to
work at."

Dickey didn't line up at quarterback until the start of the
fourth quarter. He went 3-for-4 with an interception and a 29-yard
touchdown pass to Chad Jackson off a screen.

Overall, Florida gained 512 yards and scored its most points
since a 71-13 win over Vanderbilt in 2001.

"If we can get that kind of production rotating quarterbacks,
I'd like to keep it this way all year," offensive lineman Shannon
Snell said.

Not that it was too hard to look good against overmatched San
Jose State, the Western Athletic Conference school that won at
Illinois last season on its way to a 6-7 record.

Spartans quarterback Scott Rislov, who threw for 3,251 yards
last year, had trouble getting the ball downfield. He went
13-for-27 for 57 yards.

"We thought we had a chance to win this football game,"
Spartans coach Fitz Hill said. "Early on, things didn't go our
way, and they are a fast and big football team."

The game was played before 90,011 fans at The Swamp, courtesy of
a $55 million expansion project completed this month. The crowd was
the largest to see a football game in the state of Florida.