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Big plays for special teams

As crazy as it was, it worked.

By IAN FISHER
Published December 3, 2006


ATLANTA - As crazy as it was, it worked.

Down 21-17 in the third quarter, the Gators had fourth and 10 from their own 15-yard line - it seemed like an obvious punting situation.

But not for Urban Meyer.

Punter Eric Wilbur took the snap, ran right and handed off to Jemalle Cornelius, who was coming around to the left. Cornelius took the ball 17 yards for a first down.

"If we're going to be successful, we're going to shoot everything we've got," Meyer said. "I've always been one of those coaches that I've got a hard time facing those players if we don't shoot everything we've got."

Meyer decided to run the fake because of how much he trusted the three seniors involved.

"I had great confidence in the guys executing it," Meyer said. "A senior punter pitching to a senior receiver with a senior at lead blocker. That play had been practiced a couple thousand times."

Wilbur agreed it was a risky play.

"We always pressure Meyer pretty much every punt," Wilbur said. " 'Let's run it, Coach. Let's run it.' We finally ran it.

"It wasn't the ideal situation. Fourth and 10 is kind of long for a fake, but everything worked out."

After stalling on the ensuing third down, Florida faced fourth and 1 at its own 41. Meyer called a timeout and wanted to go for it. But co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told Meyer it was too early to go for it.

"I was going to go for it there, and the comment on the headset was Greg Mattison saying, 'It's early,' " Meyer said. "He just kept saying, 'It's early. Let's play some great defense.' "

Wilbur punted the ball deep to returner Reggie Fish. The ball careened off Fish's shoulder and bounced free into the end zone.

Florida cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis, a true freshman, fell on the ball to put the Gators up 24-21.

"Offense was not playing good at the moment. I knew we had to do it on special teams," Pierre-Louis said. "Some teams don't believe in special teams. We believe in special teams.

"That was the biggest play of my life right there."

After that touchdown, the Gators never trailed again.