Leak, Florida hold on for win over VanderbiltNov 4, 2006 - 9:26 PM NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- There was nothing pretty about Florida's 17th straight win over Vanderbilt. Just ask Chris Leak.
The senior quarterback overcame three interceptions by rushing for a pair of touchdowns in the seventh-ranked Gators' 25-19 victory over the Commodores in a Southeastern Conference clash.
Winning on the road for the first time since September 16 at Tennessee, Florida (8-1, 5-2 SEC East) clinched the East Division title when eight-ranked Tennessee lost to No. 13 Louisiana State later Saturday, 28-24.
"I'm happy for our players, coaches and the Gator nation," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "We've got a great group of people who are invested in the program. Getting to Atlanta was certainly one of our goals but we still have some work ahead of us."
Despite the impressive winning streak, the latest victory proved to be a struggle as the Gators could not shake the Commodores (4-6, 1-5 East), who scored twice in the fourth quarter to create some tense moments.
"I felt that our guys at the end of the game on defense got pushed in a little bit," Meyer said. "But I think that is a product of fatigue and of the schedule that we play."
"I'm proud of our players for playing hard and not giving up," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "We just gave them too many opportunities early on and that cost us the game."
After Chris Nickson's 31-yard touchdown throw to Earl Bennett with 2:32 remaining, Florida's Dallas Baker was able to haul in an onside kick, allowing the Gators to run out the final two-plus minutes.
Although he finished with minus-18 yards on nine carries, Leak recorded his second touchdown on the ground from four yards out for a 22-6 lead with 9:12 left in the third quarter.
"We need to limit our mistakes," Leak said. "There were a lot of good things that we did today. It's just the little things we need to work on. You always want to attack and stay aggressive. You don't want the defense to dictate."
Chris Hetland added a 29-yard field goal less than eight minutes later for Florida, which overcame three sacks and six penalties for 53 yards.
Leak completed 18-of-25 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown and Baker caught seven passes for 135 yards and a score.
The sloppy play by the senior quarterback was out of the ordinary, as Leak entered the game the school's leader in lowest interception percentage per career attempt (2.78).
"We need to limit our mistakes," Leak said. "There were a lot of good things that we did today. It's just the little things we need to work on."
"I thought our execution today was pretty good if you take away the three picks," Meyer said. "But you cannot take away the three picks. It is something that (Leak) has got to work on. But we made a concerted effort to throw the ball downfield today. We matched up well at wide receiver today."
Andre Caldwell had eight catches for 68 yards and DeShawn Wynn rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries for the Gators, who were able to continue their success in the series with the Commodores despite being outgained, 391-330.
Nickson, a sophomore, went 27-for-44 with 298 yards and Bennett grabbed 13 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown for Vanderbilt, which dropped its second straight home game.
"Today was our first game where we were down a lot and still had an opportunity to come away with a win," Nickson said. "We learned how to deal with those situations today. We have to maintain our confidence and keep our momentum."
The Commodores travel to Kentucky next Saturday.
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