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Junior eases worries of losing Caldwell

Published September 25, 2005

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After Jemalle Cornelius had the best game of his career, a reporter asked quarterback Chris Leak about the junior receiver.

But the reporter mispronounced Cornelius' first name, rhyming it with "tall" instead of "tell." Considering how much of an impact Cornelius had made before Saturday, he might be forgiven.

But after catching eight passes for a team-high 138 yards, it's clear Cornelius will be in the limelight a lot more as junior receiver Andre Caldwell of Tampa sits out the rest of the season with a broken leg.

"I thought Jemalle Cornelius played brilliant," Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "One guy goes down ... and the next guy comes in. We challenged him to go a little harder, and he did."

Cornelius' game high was three catches, which he reached in the first quarter, and he amassed only 154 yards all of last season.

"It feels good to contribute to the team," Cornelius said. "You have to be ready when your number is called. I knew I was going to get some opportunities, and God was with me. I was fortunate enough to make the most of them."

Cornelius said he was going to talk after the game with Caldwell.

"He's probably going to critique it hard because he expects us to play our best," Cornelius said. "He's probably going to have some jokes. I know he was laughing at some of the stuff, but I can't wait to talk to him."

One stat the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Caldwell might have a problem with is zero touchdowns. The closest he came was a 50-yarder to the Wildcats 11.

"That's something we have to work on," Cornelius said. "When I get that close, I have to put it in the end zone."

Regardless, the Gators are glad Cornelius proved he could step in during Caldwell's absence.

"Everybody knows about the injury to Bubba, and Jemalle kind of filled that spot," center Mike Degory said. "He really ran with it, and he had a really good game. He's a player that we kind of expect that from because he's been here for a while and he's made big plays in the past."

Defensive end Jeremy Mincey said his concerns about losing Caldwell are gone. His coach agreed.

"I don't feel any better about Bubba being out, but I love Jemalle Cornelius," Meyer said.

"He's done all the right things. He's got a big old smile on his face, and he had his best day as a Gator."

After his breakout game, maybe Cornelius will hear his name pronounced correctly.

Then his smile would be even bigger.

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