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Sweet redemption

Two years after his penalty helped cost the Gators against the Vols, Dallas Baker catches two second-half touchdowns in a 21-20 victory.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published September 17, 2006


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Florida cornerback Reggie Nelson intercepted an Erik Ainge pass with 2:47 remaining in the game, and senior DeShawn Wynn converted a third and 6 soon after to help give Florida a come-from-behind 21-20 win over No. 13 Tennessee in front of 106,818 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

"This was the way it should end in a close game, a very close ending," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.

"This is one of the finest team efforts I've ever seen."

Florida rallied from a 17-7 deficit to take a 21-20 lead with 6:30 left on a 21-yard pass from Chris Leak to Dallas Baker, whose unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game two years ago helped Tennessee win 30-28.

Baker's 5-yard catch in the third quarter cut it to 17-14.

The win puts Florida a leg up in the SEC East race and might curb the talk of why Florida can't win on the road. The Gators were 1-3 under Meyer in road games prior to Saturday night.

Meyer said last week it was a matter of toughness. The tougher team would win.

Florida proved to be it. Wynn, nursing a sore shoulder, had 22 carries for 104 yards, and Leak was 15-of-25 for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Florida also held Tennessee to minus-11 yards on 23 carries.

"I think Chris Leak had a hell of a game," Meyer said.

Florida managed the victory despite critical mistakes, including an interception, touchdown called back due to a penalty, two missed field goals and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Tennessee took a 17-7 lead with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter, and it looked like Florida might be done. The Gators managed just five rushing yards in the third quarter (97 passing), and their offense was sputtering.

Florida managed to keep the sold-out crowd partially subdued for about the first 23 minutes of the game, but the Vols regained the momentum with a missed Florida field goal and a trick play.

With the Gators driving for a touchdown early in the second quarter, Leak was sacked on third and 15 at the Tennessee 27 by Turk McBride. The 8-yard loss led to a 52-yard field goal that Chris Hetland missed short and left.

It was his first attempt of the season, and Meyer had expressed concern earlier in the week that Hetland hadn't had a chance to attempt one in a game.

On the ensuing possession, the Vols took advantage.

Receiver Lucas Taylor took a handoff from Ainge then lobbed a pass to a wide-open Lucas Taylor, who sprinted down the field for a 48-yard touchdown with 7:57 remaining in the first half. There wasn't a Florida defender within 30 yards.

The touchdown gave the Vols a 10-7 lead and brought the crowd back to life.

Earlier in the week, cornerback Tony Joiner said the Gators had one of the best defenses in the nation, and it made a statement early.

On the game's first play, Nelson intercepted his first pass of the game, from Ainge intended for Bret Smith.