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Baker more than makes up for early drop

The senior catches seven passes for 135 yards and a TD and even records a tackle and recovers an onside kick.

By IAN FISHER
Published November 5, 2006


NASHVILLE - After receiver Dallas Baker dropped the first pass thrown to him, all he wanted was another chance.

Baker doesn't remember what happened on the drop, but he went to coach Urban Meyer and told him to go right back to him.

Chris Leak threw to Baker on the next offensive play. Baker caught it for 23 yards, and a few plays later, he caught a 14-yard touchdown.

"Dallas played great. That's a weapon," Meyer said. "Throwing the football - a lot is matchup - Dallas matched up pretty well."

He caught seven passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. He was all over the field Saturday and not just on offense. He recovered Vanderbilt's onside kick to seal the victory. He even had a tackle after an interception.

He consistently got open, and the Gators exploited the room Vanderbilt's defense was giving him.

It was sort of a return to form for Baker.

Baker racked up four touchdowns and more than 400 yards in his first four games. But since then, he had been held in check. He didn't catch more than four passes in any of the four games before Vanderbilt and had only one touchdown in those games.

But Saturday, Baker found holes in Vanderbilt's defense all game. Leak said Baker read the defense from film study and was able to get where defenders weren't.

"You have to give credit to Dallas seeing the coverages and the offensive line figuring out the protections when they blitzed because there were some open zones when they did bring pressure," Leak said.

"Dallas found them, and I was able to get the ball to him."

Leak said he always gets excited when he sees Baker one-on-one with a defender because it's a battle Baker will usually win.

But Baker didn't just shine on offense Saturday. He tackled Ryan Hamilton after he picked Leak off, and he recovered the onside kick after Vanderbilt cut it to 25-19.

"I was thinking we just got a victory," Baker said.

"Now it's time to run out the clock and get back to Gainesville and celebrate."

When asked if he and Andre Caldwell are one of the best receiver tandems in the SEC, Baker shot it down. He said forget the conference. This receiving corps is one of the best in the country.

"When we're both playing together, we feel that we're unstoppable," Caldwell said. "We're the best two out there on the field, and we can't be stopped."