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Colleges: UF 16, UT 7

Junior kicker makes good impression

Chris Hetland hits field goals of 38, 35 and 20 yards in a bid to reclaim his job.

By IZZY GOULD
Published September 18, 2005

GAINESVILLE - Urban Meyer can scrap thoughts of searching for a placekicker.

The Florida coach found his man Saturday in Chris Hetland.

The redshirt junior played a key role in helping Florida to a 16-7 victory against fifth-ranked Tennessee.

He did it before a national television audience and record-crowd of 90,716 stuffed in the Swamp. The walk-on might earn a scholarship if he continues to kick consistently. "I'm very proud of him," Meyer said. "He's done a great job. He effortlessly kicks the ball.

"(Eric) Nappy is right behind him. If he's the guy who continues and plays the rest of the year, he'll be on scholarship."

On drives the Gators failed to crack the end zone, they leaned on Hetland in his third start.

He no longer is in Meyer's doghouse after nailing field goals of 38, 35 and 20 yards.

There were questions before Saturday's game if Hetland would be passed over in hopes of finding a more reliable kicker.

The Georgia native entered 2-for-2 on field goals, a 40- and 47-yarder against Wyoming, and had adjusted to the sod of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

But two missed extra points in seven tries had earned Hetland a seat on the bench in favor of Nappy.

Hetland fought hard to replace departed graduate Matt Leach during the preseason and beat out Nappy. He proved worthy of the job.

The most important kick of the night came with 11:41 left in the third quarter. Florida and Tennessee were locked in a tight defensive battle.

The Gators had punted after their first possession of the second half but were the beneficiaries of a fumble by returner Johnathan Hefney. Florida's Todd McCullough recovered at the Tennessee 28. Tennessee held firm with a sack of Chris Leak then allowed 3 yards on a DeShawn Wynn run and got a third-down incompletion. Hetland was on.

He jogged onto the field, went through his motion and drilled the 38-yarder through the uprights for a 10-7 lead.

That's all Hetland needed to help Florida win the game and possibly all he needed to keep his job.

Hetland padded his statistics and Florida's lead with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

From a few yards closer, Hetland drilled another field goal straight down the middle, this one from 35 yards.

And for good measure, he finished with a 20-yard field goal with 8:02 left for a 16-7 lead.

[Last modified September 18, 2005, 06:17:46]


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