Leak throws 3 TDs as Florida defense shines

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Chris Leak's record-setting night
wasn't good enough for Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Leak completed 26 of 34 passes for 320 yards and three
touchdowns, broke Steve Spurrier's school record for consecutive
completions and led the No. 10 Gators to a 32-14 victory over
Wyoming in Meyer's debut Saturday.

But Meyer wanted more from his junior quarterback.

"In case you're wondering what the offense should look like,
that wasn't it," Meyer said, sounding a little like the Ol' Ball
Coach. "We have got a lot of work to do. Chris Leak and the
offense has a long way to go."

The offense did sputter at times. Leak was sacked four times and
there were two errant snaps for losses. But the unit made several
big plays and scored touchdowns on three passes from Leak to Chad
Jackson. The receiver finished with 10 catches for 138 yards and
added a 5-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.

"We have great chemistry together," Leak said. "That's just
the close relationship we have."

The defense was equally sharp. Yes, Florida's defense. Nearly
the same unit that collapsed in losses to Tennessee, LSU and
Mississippi State last season looked much improved against the
Cowboys (0-1), who returned nine starters on an offense that ranked
36th in the nation in passing last season.

Defensive end Ray McDonald put steady pressure on quarterback
Corey Bramlet. Linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett made
tackles all over the field. And cornerback Vernell Brown
intercepted a pass and had several deflections, showing one reason
why Meyer dubbed him "the face of Florida football."

The defense might have overshadowed Leak had the quarterback not
received so much offseason and preseason attention regarding the
new scheme.

Meyer said the one question he was asked more than any other
when he spoke to 13,000 fans at 18 different Gator Club gatherings
this summer was whether Leak could direct the same offense that
made Alex Smith the top pick in the NFL draft.

Leak showed he could Saturday -- to everyone except Meyer.

Leak called audibles -- which he didn't do the last two years --
made good decisions while running the option and was most effective
from the pocket. He also made the school record book as Florida won
its 16th consecutive season opener.

Leak completed 17 consecutive passes between the first and third
quarters, breaking Spurrier's mark set in 1966. Spurrier hit 16 in
a row at Florida State on Oct. 8, 1966, then matched his mark the
following week at North Carolina State.

"I keep hearing that Chris completed 17 consecutive passes. I
must have been watching something else when that happened," Meyer
said. "I was so upset we weren't going up and down the field. I'm
not a very optimistic person. I always look at the negative."

Although Leak's on-target performance included many shovel
passes to receivers and running backs, it also had a few perfectly
thrown deep balls.

He underthrew Andre Caldwell on Florida's first play of the
game, then short-hopped a pass to Jemalle Cornelius on the next
drive. But he settled down on the third possession.

"All you have to do is get the ball in the area and they'll go
get," Leak said. "If you get the ball in their hands, they can
break tackles and make plays."

Leak hit Jackson with a 23-yard pass that gave the Gators their
first first down. A few plays later, he connected with Jackson down
the sideline for a 26-yard score the receiver nabbed with one hand.

The duo hooked up again for a 7-yard score on the following
drive, and Leak found Jackson again for a touchdown to start the
third quarter.

"Once he learns all the offensive schemes, he's going to be
hard to stop," Wyoming receiver Jovon Bouknight said of Leak.

The Cowboys struggled early, trailing 23-0 before getting on the
scoreboard following a 66-yard kickoff return by Bouknight.

Four plays after converting on fourth-and-3 from the Florida 27,
Bramlet scored from 4 yards out. Bouknight's 18-yard TD reception
with about five minutes to play made it 32-14.

"The story of the game was execution," Bouknight said.
"Florida was able to execute plays and get the ball in the end
zone. Most of their plays were big ones."


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