GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida coach Urban Meyer walked a few yards onto the field and punched his fist three times at the offense.
He wanted someone to step up and make a play on fourth-and-goal.
DeShawn Wynn did. Wynn returned from a one-game suspension and gave the running game a much-needed boost.
He ran 16 times for a career-high 101 yards and scored three touchdowns, including a 1-yard dive on that fourth-down play, helping the 10th-ranked Gators beat Louisiana Tech 41-3 Saturday night.
“A 230-pound back needs to run like he ran,” Meyer said. “I was really impressed.”
With the victory, Meyer accomplished something Ron Zook never did: start 2-0. Zook was 1-1 in each of his three seasons. Of course, Zook’s losses came against Miami twice and Tennessee.
Meyer’s first real test comes next week against the sixth-ranked Volunteers.
“With all due respect to the two teams we played, but we probably have better players than Wyoming and Louisiana Tech,” Meyer said. “You have to flip the switch this week. Now, all of a sudden, the checkers are equal. We better be on our game.”
The Gators struggled at times for the second consecutive week, but Meyer was clearly holding back parts of the offense—quite possibly saving something for the Vols.
Chris Leak threw just eight passes in the first half, but connected with Chad Jackson on an 80-yard score in the third quarter. Leak also ran for two second-half scores.
Wynn, who pouted last season after losing the position battle to Ciatrick Fason and eventually slipped to third on the depth chart, looked sharp throughout.
He gained 7 yards on his first carry, then ripped off a 50-yarder on his next. He carried five straight times on Florida’s second drive and capped it his touchdown dive on fourth down—after Meyer challenged the offense.
“DeShawn packs a little more power,” Meyer said. “We need that in this offense. We need a downhill runner.”
Wynn’s second 1-yard plunge made it 14-0 in the second quarter. He added a leaping 24-yard catch a few minutes later for a three-touchdown lead.
Leak finished 13-of-22 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran seven times for 16 yards. He was 26-of-34 for 320 yards and three touchdowns last week against Wyoming. He also was sacked four times—something Meyer vowed to correct.
He mostly did.
Leak was sacked once in the second quarter and fumbled, which led to Tech’s lone score—a 37-yard field goal by Danny Horwedel.
“I was disappointed with Chris Leak’s play early,” Meyer said. “But I thought he came on in the second half and threw some nice passes. I thought he missed a couple of guys. He’s got to hit the targets. Later on he did. The ones he missed, I don’t think he will miss those very often.”
Wynn’s return took some pressure of Leak. He was suspended for the opener for violating an unspecified team rule. The Gators managed 91 yards on 36 carries last week, and their leading rusher was backup quarterback Josh Portis.
They surpassed that rushing total in the second quarter against the Bulldogs (0-1) and finished with 251 yards on 49 attempts.
“(The final score) doesn’t tell the whole story,” Bulldogs safety Dez Abrams said. “They weren’t running up and down the field on us. Everyone will turn on ESPN and say, ‘Wow, Tech got crushed.’ They had some pretty good trick plays and misdirections. … They got some big yards off of those plays.”
Louisiana Tech had little offensive success in its season debut.
Matt Kubik was 4-of-18 passing for 56 yards with two interceptions. Donald Allen was 7-of-14 for 61 yards with one interception.
Mark Dillard and Freddie Franklin combined for 59 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs switched to a version of Meyer’s spread offense this season after losing Ryan Moats to the NFL. Moats accounted for 41 percent of the offense in 2004.
But it’s hard to blame the Bulldogs for anything that went wrong Saturday. Players and coaches were admittedly still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.
Although their campus in Ruston is more than 300 miles northwest of New Orleans, they were hardly immune from Katrina’s destruction. More than a dozen players lost their homes and many of them waited anxiously for word from loved ones.
“It’s been a life-changing experience for a lot of people,” coach Jack Bicknell said. “You realize what’s really important to you in life. If you have a meal, some water and a bed to lay down in at night … you have it good. But some people don’t even have that.
“I’m proud of our town, our country for everything they’ve done.”