tampabay.com

Bay area products make memorable plays

CCC's Riley Cooper helps produce a safety and Lakewood's Louis Murphy finishes off LSU with a TD.

By IAN FISHER
Published October 8, 2006


GAINESVILLE - When Riley Cooper saw what was in front of him, his eyes grew wide anticipating the hit he was going to put on LSU's Early Doucett.

He ran down the field on the opening kickoff of the second half, hit Doucett at full speed and popped the ball loose. LSU recovered it in the end zone for a safety to put the Gators up 16-7.

"I'm thinking about going down there as fast as I can," said Cooper, a Clearwater Central Catholic product. "I saw the guy start juggling around a little bit, and it was just a perfect opportunity to hit him, so I did."

On Florida's ensuing possession, quarterback Tim Tebow hit Lakewood product Louis Murphy for a 35-yard score.

Checkmate, according to Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Meyer said that former coach Lou Holtz has told him that the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half are the most important times for momentum in a game. In that time, the Gators put up their final 16 points.

The two Bay area players contributed their biggest plays as Gators against LSU on Saturday. Cooper has played mostly on special teams.

Doucett said he was surprised to see Cooper flying at him so fast on the kickoff.

"I tried to make sure I caught the ball, but I started upfield before I secured the ball," Doucett said. "I wish I could take it back, and he made a very big play."

For Murphy, it was an even bigger game. He played all last season and this one, but he never recorded a reception until Saturday.

Murphy found himself open down the field with the ball in Tebow's hands. LSU's defenders bit on a Tebow run fake, then the quarterback pulled up and passed to Murphy for an easy six points. Murphy can't remember being so open.

"It was so amazing," Murphy said. "I saw the ball up there. I was so nervous, but Tebow made a great pass and I was able to bring it in. I'm just out there trying to help this team win, but it's great to have my first catch go for a touchdown."

Murphy said he felt like his recruiting class is being overshadowed by this year's crop of recruits, including Percy Harvin and Highsborough High's Jarred Fayson. Fayson finished the game with 11 yards rushing, while Murphy tallied two catches for 42 yards.

Jefferson High's Andre Caldwell caught 38 yards receiving and rushed for 9 yards.

But for Murphy, it was a surreal night.

"I was just waiting on my chance," Murphy said. "It happened to be (at the site of ESPN's) College Gameday. I'm just glad to be here.

"It still hasn't hit me yet. When I lay down tonight, I'll probably wake up tomorrow morning and just be happy to be here."