The 2006 Florida Gators football team represented the University of Florida in the 2006 college football season. This was the team's second season under head coach Urban Meyer. They played their home games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
The team overcame arguably the toughest schedule in the nation to become National Champions. They won their seventh Southeastern Conference title by defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks by the score of 38-28 on December 2. The team then capped off the season by winning the 2006 BCS football national championship. They defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes by a score of 41-14 in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game on January 8, 2007.
The Florida Gators celebrated two milestones in the 2006 season: the 10-year anniversary of their first national championship, and 100 years of Florida Football.
In addition, with the men's basketball team winning the 2006 & 2007 national titles, UF became the first Division I school to win both titles within one calendar year and during the same academic year.
Most of the starters returned from a 2005 team that went 9-3 and they were bolstered by a top-rated recruiting class the previous February. The Gators' schedule included a four-game stretch against teams likely to be in the top-15 teams, starting with Alabama on September 30.
|Date||Time||Rank#||(Rank#)Opponent||Result||Stadium · City||Coverage|
|September 2, 2006*||6:00 PM||#8||Southern Miss||W 34-7||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||PPV|
|September 9, 2006*||6:00 PM||#7||Central Florida||W 42-0||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||PPV|
|September 16, 2006||8:00 PM||#6||@ #17 Tennessee||W 21-20||Neyland Stadium · Knoxville, TN||CBS|
|September 23, 2006||7:45 PM||#5||Kentucky||W 26-7||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||ESPN|
|September 30, 2006||3:30 PM||#5||Alabama||W 28-13||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||CBS|
|October 7, 2006†||3:30 PM||#5||#10 LSU||W 23-10||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||CBS|
|October 14, 2006||7:45 PM||#3||@ #10 Auburn||L 27-17||Jordan-Hare Stadium · Auburn, AL||ESPN|
|October 28, 2006||3:30 PM||#8||#25 Georgia||W 21-14||ALLTEL Stadium · Jacksonville, FL||CBS|
|November 4, 2006||12:30 PM||#7||@ Vanderbilt||W 25-19||Vanderbilt Stadium · Nashville, TN||LFS|
|November 11, 2006||3:30 PM||#6||South Carolina||W 17-16||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||CBS|
|November 18, 2006*||12:00 PM||#3||Western Carolina||W 62-0||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium · Gainesville, FL||PPV|
|November 25, 2006*||12:00 PM||#4||@ Florida State||W 21-14||Doak Campbell Stadium · Tallahassee, FL||ABC|
|December 2, 2006||6:00 PM||#4||#8 Arkansas||W 38-28||SEC Championship, Georgia Dome · Atlanta, GA||CBS|
|January 8, 2007||8:00 PM||#2||#1 Ohio State||W 41-14||University of Phoenix Stadium · Glendale, Arizona||FOX|
|*Non-Conference Game †Homecoming #Rankings from Coaches Poll released prior to game. All times are Eastern Time (UTC-5).|
Florida quarterback Chris Leak was 19-of-29 for 352 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Percy Harvin had a coming-out game with a 58-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring, en route to a 4-catch, 99-yards receiving day. Andre Caldwell caught two touchdowns, and Dallas Baker added one more for the Gators. Florida reserve QB Tim Tebow led the game in rushing, with 61 yards.
The second half of the game was more of a defensive struggle for both teams, but the Gators scored two more touchdowns (and made both PATs) to make the final score 26-7. Freshman Tim Tebow—the backup quarterback—led the Gators in rushing for the second time in four games with 73 yards on 6 rushes.
The week prior to the game, it was announced that DT Marcus Thomas was indefinitely suspended after failing a drug test. He appealed the suspension, but missed the Kentucky game while awaiting word on the appeal.
Florida went with a throwback uniform style for the game, wearing uniforms from the mid 1960's as a part of the 100-year celebration of Florida Football. Prior to the game, Florida also unveiled its four initial entries into the Gator Football Ring of Honor—Emmitt Smith, Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier, and Jack Youngblood.
The Gators trailed for nearly the entire first three quarters. After a botched snap between center Steve Rissler and quarterback Chris Leak, Alabama's Prince Hall returned the fumble for their only touchdown of the game. The Tide added a field goal to take a 10-0 lead that held until just before the half. Late in the first half, Chris Leak had a career-long 45-yard run. Three plays later, a Tim Tebow designed sneak scored from 2 yards out, putting the Gators on the board with 1:45 left in the half.
The Gators took their first lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter on a Leak pass to Andre Caldwell, making it 14-10. The Tide kept it close, kicking a 26-yard field goal to make it a 1-point game in the fourth quarter. Leak found Dallas Baker on a 21-yard touchdown pass to strengthen Florida's lead, and safety Reggie Nelson picked off John Parker Wilson's pass and took it 70 yards for the score to put the game out of reach.
Like in their other 3 SEC victories, the Gators fell behind in the first half, allowing an LSU touchdown drive after a Kestahn Moore fumble on the opening drive. After the Tigers muffed on a Gator punt a drive later, reserve freshman QB Tim Tebow scored on a QB sneak from one yard out to tie the game. The Gators also scored right before halftime on Tebow's first touchdown pass, where he faked a leap over the pile and threw the ball to a falling Tate Casey. Tebow added a more conventional touchdown pass to Louis Murphy early in the third quarter. The Tigers' Early Doucet fumbled the second half kickoff into the end zone for a safety, which led to the long Tebow throw on the next drive. Starting QB Chris Leak, despite going 17-of-26 passing, was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.
The Tigers scored early, taking the opening drive to the Gators' 5-yard-line before being forced to kick a field goal. The Gators responded with a field goal, their first of the season for a 3-3 tie at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, with a touchdown pass from Chris Leak to Dallas Baker the Gators took a 10-3 lead. Soon thereafter, the Gators seemingly averted danger when they stripped the ball from the Tigers at the goal line. One play later, however, a Jim Tartt holding penalty in the end zone forced a safety, giving Auburn the ball back and 2 points. With about 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter Auburn kicked another field goal to make the score 10-8. The Gators strengthened their lead to 17-8 on a Tim Tebow run. Auburn kicked one additional field goal with 30 seconds in the quarter to cut the Gator lead to 17-11 at the half.
The second half belonged entirely to the Tigers, as they shut Florida out in the half and blocked a punt for a score to take the lead by 1 in the third quarter. The Gators threatened to take the lead midway through the fourth until a controversial Chris Leak fumble caused by Tray Blackmon of the Tigers gave Auburn the ball. A late field goal put Auburn up 4 with just over 30 seconds to go in the game. In desperation, Florida responded on the last play of the game with a failed hook and lateral play, which Auburn's defense was able to pick up and return for a score as time expired.
The Gators clinched their trip to the SEC Championship Game with a sloppy win over Vanderbilt. Chris Leak struggled throughout the game, going 18 of 25 passing for 237 yards and one touchdown. Leak threw three interceptions, all of which came with the Gators controlling the flow of the game. Florida got very strong play from its defense and special teams, as they were able to block two punts and force an interception. Before the game, it was announced that star defensive lineman Marcus Thomas was kicked off the team for the remainder of the year. Coach Urban Meyer stated during the game that "Marcus did not meet his responsibilities and obligations to remain on the team."
In one of the most anticipated games of the season, former Gator coaching legend and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier returned to The Swamp. Spurrier had made two well-received public visits to the stadium earlier in the year as a part of the national championship anniversary celebration and to be enshrined in the Gators' Ring of Honor. In a thrilling game, the Gators blocked an extra point, and a potential game winning 48 yard field goal was blocked with only eight seconds remaining in the game. Leading the Gators on offense was Chris Leak, who with 258 yards passing in the game, eclipsed Danny Wuerffel as the All-Time passing yards leader in Gators history. DeShawn Wynn added 86 yards on the ground to help the Gators maintain a steady attack. Freshman Tim Tebow continued his strong season, rushing for a 13 yard touchdown which proved to be the game winning score. Tebow also converted a critical fourth down play inside Gator territory. Kicker Chris Hetland continued to struggle, missing a 28 yard field goal. He did, however, kick a 22 yard field goal. Defensive lineman Jarvis Moss blocked an extra point and two field goals to ensure a Gator victory.
The third ranked Gators had little trouble disposing of lowly 1-AA Western Carolina. Chris Leak, who played in his final game at The Swamp, played in the first half, going 9-12 for 98 yards and one touchdown. Freshman sensation Tim Tebow took over for the majority of the second half, going 10-12 passing, for 200 yards, and two touchdowns. Tebow added two touchdowns rushing along with 47 yards. The Gators used the game to give young players some playing time. A slough of freshman played, including Jarred Fayson, who saw time at quarterback and wide receiver. Riley Cooper, yet another freshman, added three receiving touchdowns in the game. Perhaps the most impressive freshman on the day however, was Mon Williams, who rushed for 97 yards on only 9 carries. Brandon James also added a 77 yard touchdown from a punt return. Overall, the Gators finished with more points(62) than the Catamounts had yards(59).
Chris Leak threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, Percy Harvin ran for a score and the fourth-ranked Gators beat struggling Florida State 21-14 on Saturday to stay in the national title hunt.
The victory did not not help much in the Bowl Championship Series standings, leaving the Gators looking for assistance to get to the title game, which would come the following weekend.
The fourth ranked Gators took on the eighth ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2006 SEC Championship Game. Both teams were looking to end their respective SEC Championship droughts, with Florida having not won the title since 2000, and the Razorbacks losing in their previous two title game appearances. The Gators came into the game favored by three points. Both teams traded three and outs before Florida exploded in the second quarter. Up 3-0, Chris Leak was called for a rare quarterback draw which he converted by fighting into the endzone, giving the Gators a 10-0 lead. On the next Florida drive, Leak found game MVP Percy Harvin on a perfectly thrown 37-yard touchdown pass. However, the Razorbacks came back with a touchdown of their own. Razorbacks quarterback Casey Dick, who had struggled mightily in the past few games, threw a perfect pass to Marcus Monk who caught the pass for a 47-yard touchdown. The Gators led 17-7 heading into the half.
At half time, in a stunning development, the second ranked USC Trojans lost in a shocking upset to rival UCLA. With this turn of events, Florida could give themselves a strong chance to overtake No. 2 Michigan and play in the BCS National Championship Game with a win. However, Arkansas came out firing in the second half. Using the unusual "Wildcat Formation", All American tailback Darren McFadden threw a quick two yard touchdown to fellow tailback Felix Jones. On the next offensive series, Gators quarterback Chris Leak was intercepted on an attempted shovel pass which was returned by Antwain Robinson for a touchdown, giving the Razorbacks a stunning 21-17 lead. Florida regained the ball, but was stuffed by the Arkansas defense. Coach Urban Meyer decided to run a fake punt on his own 15-yard line, which proved to be a good call, as receiver Jemalle Cornelius scampered for a 16-yard gain. Even with this swing of momentum, the Gators were unable to capitalize and elected to punt from midfield. The momentum changed yet again, this time in Florida's favor. Punt returner Reggie Fish muffed the punt after trying to field it over his shoulder; the ball was recovered in the endzone by freshman Wondy Pierre-Louis, giving the Gators a 24-21 lead.
The Gators took the three point lead into the fourth quarter knowing with a win, they will have made their case to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Explosive freshman Percy Harvin gave Florida a ten point lead when he bolted through the Arkansas defense for a 67-yard touchdown. On the following Arkansas offensive series, the momentum of the game appeared to change yet again, when receiver Cedric Washington threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to tailback Felix Jones on a trick play.
Knowing the field goal lead wouldn't be enough, the Gators came out firing on their offensive series. Florida drove to the Arkansas five yard line, when freshman sensation Tim Tebow came into the game. Tebow appeared to be running yet again, but pitched the ball to wide receiver Andre Caldwell who then threw a touchdown pass to tight end Tate Casey which proved to give the Gators a big enough lead to win their first conference championship in six years.
The victory catapulted the Gators over second ranked Michigan in the BCS standings, giving the Gators the right to play Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.
The game did not start well for the Gators however. Florida won the toss and elected to defer the option to the second half, giving Ohio State the ball first. On the opening kickoff, Ted Ginn Jr sprinted for a 93 yard kick off return for a touchdown, turning the largely Ohio State crowd into a frenzy and giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game.
Coach Urban Meyer, who was coaching in his first national championship game, took a timeout to compose his team after the inauspicious start. It appeared to work, as senior Chris Leak went 5-5 on the first drive of the game. Leak found three different receivers on the drive, which culminated with a lob pass to fellow senior Dallas Baker.
The Buckeyes then got their first offensive possession of the game. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, the Buckeye offense was widely considered to be the best offense in college football. The Gators, however, had one of the top defenses in the nation. The Gators blitzed Smith a number of times on the first drive, leading to a three and out, forcing Ohio State to punt.
Florida had great field position, following a personal foul penalty on Ohio State. Chris Leak led the Gators back on the field, starting from the Ohio State 35 yard line. Florida again used a variety of offensive looks to keep the Ohio State defense off balance, which also included using freshman phenom Tim Tebow as a power rusher. On second down and goal, from the Ohio State four yard line, Florida ran an option play, in which Chris Leak pitched the ball to freshman star Percy Harvin who fought his way in for a four yard touchdown. Harvin appeared to be down at the one yard line, but after further review, it was determined that Harvin did reach the endzone. The score gave the Gators a surprising 14-7 lead.
The Buckeyes came back on their next possession, trailing by a touchdown. Still, the Gator defense managed to put quarterback Troy Smith under heavy pressure. On third down, following a sack, the Gators blitzed, hit Smith as he threw the ball, and cornerback Reggie Lewis intercepted the pass.
Following the interception, the Gators continued to use unorthodox formations and plays to keep Ohio State off balance. Chris Leak remained extremely sharp, going four of five passing on the drive, for 44 yards. On the Ohio State 7 yard line, Tim Tebow came into the game and powered his way to the Buckeye 2 yard line. On the following play, running back DeShawn Wynn rumbled in for a two yard touchdown, giving the Gators a stunning 21-7 lead.
The Buckeyes however, remained composed. Using their power running game, and a 13 yard scramble from Troy Smith, the Buckeyes drove to the Gators' 18 yard line. Tailback Antonio Pittman weaved through the Gators' defense on the next play, for an 18 yard touchdown run, pulling the Buckeyes to within a touchdown.
Florida moved the ball with some success on their next possession, but were held for the first time all night by the Ohio State defense, forcing a Florida punt. Troy Smith and the Buckeyes marched back on the field, hoping to tie the game. However, Florida's stifling defensive line continued to put heavy pressure on Smith, forcing bad throws and incompletions, ultimately leading to a three and out.
The Gators got the football back, hoping to restore their two touchdown lead. Florida did move the ball successfully, but was unable to move the ball inside the redzone. Much to the displeasure of many Gator fans, Florida elected to send kicker Chris Hetland on to attempt a 40 yard field goal. Hetland had missed 9 of 13 attempts on the season, but split the uprights, giving the Gators a 24-14 lead.
Ohio State was now in a deep hole, trailing by ten with 6 minutes to go in the half. The Buckeyes attempted to establish a power running game with Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells, but the Gator defense was up to the task. In perhaps one of the most stunning decisions of the game, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel decided to go for it on fourth and 1 from his own 29. The decision backfired, and Chris Wells was stopped short of the first down, giving the Gators great field position.
With the swing in momentum, the Gators were again unable to score a touchdown and settled for another Chris Hetland 40 yard field goal, pushing the Gator lead to 27-14. The game changed for good, on the next Ohio State possession. Under extreme pressure yet again, Troy Smith attempted to scramble outside of the pocket, but was caught by defensive end and special teams hero Jarvis Moss, who stripped Smith of the football. Defensive game MVP Derrick Harvey recovered the fumble and returned it for 9 yards, to the Ohio State five yard line. After two Tim Tebow runs up the middle, Florida faced a third down and goal on the Ohio State one yard line. Florida used a timeout to draw up a play for Tebow, who remained in the game. Tebow faked his usual quarterback run up the middle, ran left and flipped an easy one yard touchdown pass to a wide open Andre Caldwell. This score gave the Gators a shocking 34-14 halftime lead.
Leading 34-14 heading into the third quarter, the Gators appeared to be conservative on offense, which resulted in a quick three and out on the first possession of the half. The Gator defense, however, remained their brilliant play, in suffocating Troy Smith and pressuring him relentlessly and forcing him into bad decisions. The teams traded three and outs, and punts, throughout the third quarter, which gave the Gators a 20 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Fifteen minutes from a national championship, the Gators were determined not to have a defensive lapse, like many had so often seen under former coach Ron Zook. The Gators again continued their relentless pressure on Troy Smith, sacking him several times, and pressuring him into bad throws.
On their next offensive possession, the Gators were determined to put the game out of reach. Urban Meyer again used a balanced attack of rushing and passing to drive the Gators down to the Ohio State one yard line. Faced with a fourth and 1 on the Ohio State 1 yard line, many fans knew what was coming. Tim Tebow was again brought into the game and powered his way off the right side for a touchdown, giving the Gators a commanding 41-14 lead.
Troy Smith continued to have the worst game of his Buckeye career, as he was sacked for a 14 yard loss on the drive, putting Ohio State into a 3rd and 29 hole. Ohio State ran a draw play on 3rd down, and punted on the following play.
With 8 minutes remaining in the game, the Gators were determined to end the game and give the school a national championship. DeShawn Wynn, who was in Urban Meyer's doghouse early in Meyer's tenure at Florida, carried the ball 8 times on the drive, picking up several key first downs to keep the clock running. However, Wynn was stopped on a 3rd and 8 play, for only 2 yards. Coach Urban Meyer elected to go for it, and Chris Leak passed to Percy Harvin, who barely made the first down. Knowing this had sealed the win, Meyer began pumping his fist, and gesturing the Florida crowd to get noisy. Chris Leak took a final knee on fourth down, ending his illustrious career as a Gator on top of the college football world. Leak would later be named the game's most valuable player.
Pre-season Unofficial Depth Chart: http://www.gatorzone.com/football/media/2006/pdf/42.pdf
|McDonald, R.||95||14||19||17||36||4.5-16||3.0-15||5||2||1-9 1TD||1|
|Pierre-Louis, W.||4||12||3||4||7||1-0 1TD|
|Name||#||Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
Statistics as of Jan 9, 2007 http://www.gatorzone.com/football/stats/team.pdf