GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Chris Leak had one simple message for freshman Percy Harvin after Florida’s most lopsided victory in three years.
“Now it’s time for the big game,” Leak said.
The Gators certainly looked ready for next week’s Southeastern Conference showdown at No. 11 Tennessee.
Leak threw for a career-high 352 yards and four scores, Harvin provided more dazzling moments and seventh-ranked Florida routed Central Florida 42-0 Saturday night.
The shutout was Florida’s first since beating Mississippi State 52-0 in 2001. The margin of victory was Florida’s largest since beating Florida A&M 63-3 in September 2003.
It also satisfied coach Urban Meyer, who lamented college football’s new clock rules following a 34-7 win over Southern Mississippi in the opener, and ripped his running game, lack of defensive pressure and some special teams aspects.
All those worries were washed away Saturday.
“It was a very good win against a good team,” Meyer said.
The Gators, who led Southern Miss 14-7 late in the third quarter, scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions and led 34-0 at halftime.
“That was one of the best displays of offense since I’ve been around here,” senior receiver Jemalle Cornelius said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a lot of fun.”
The defense, which gave up nearly 300 yards in the opener, constantly harassed quarterback Steven Moffett, forced the Golden Knights (1-1) into countless punts and surrendered 153 yards.
“There was push the entire night,” Meyer said.
Leak, meanwhile, had all the time he needed to find open receivers.
He completed a short pass to Harvin across the middle on Florida’s fifth play of the game. The receiver turned up the sideline, got a few key blocks and outran everyone else for a 58-yard score. Harvin finished with four receptions for 99 yards. He had 91 total yards on seven touches in the opener.
Leak also threw a 10-yard TD pass to Dallas Baker and a 25-yarder to Andre Caldwell with 4 seconds to play in the first half. Leak was 13-of-19 for 265 yards in the half.
He looked like he would pick up where he left off in the third quarter, but his pass to Cornelius Ingram near the goal line was tipped and then intercepted.
Harvin stopped short on a route last week, causing an interception, and had a few more miscues in his second game. He fumbled after a 21-yard reception on Florida’s second possession and dropped an easy catch on the third drive. They were the only possessions Florida failed to score on in the first half.
Leak put the Gators up 42-0 in the third with an 8-yard TD pass to Caldwell. He finished 19-of-29. His previous career high was 322 yards against Arkansas in 2004.
“I think this game built the confidence of the offense and that should help up next week,” Cornelius said.
Meyer acknowledged that he used Central Florida to prepare for the Volunteers and raucous Neyland Stadium, saying the offensive line worked the entire game with a silent cadence.
“Obviously it’s going to be loud there,” center Steve Rissler said. “Now we’re prepared for the hostile environment.”
Highly touted freshman Tim Tebow proved again to be one of Florida’s best runners. He played a series in the second quarter, running three times for 38 yards, and drove the offense into scoring range. Kestahn Moore’s 28-yard scamper made it 20-0.
Tebow returned, played the entire fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 62 yards rushing. But he also had two turnovers, a fumble and an interception.
The Golden Knights, who put together a dramatic turnaround under coach George O’Leary last season, struggled to move the ball most the night.
Moffett was 14-of-32 for 100 yards before being replaced midway through the fourth quarter. Kevin Smith, named freshman of the year in Conference USA last year, ran nine times for 22 yards.
The loss dropped UCF to 0-16 against ranked teams and 1-10 against SEC teams.
“We had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” O’Leary said. “But give Florida credit. They’re a very solid football team with great speed. We missed too many plays on defense. We put our defense in some bad situations, and we’re just not at that stage yet that Florida plays.”