Updated: Saturday, October 11, 2003 8:52 PM EDT
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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Florida 19, (6) LSU 7
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LSU TIGERS
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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Ticker) -- Louisiana State's hopes for its first 6-0 start in 30 years sprang a Leak.

True freshman Chris Leak played with poise beyond his years, tossing a pair of touchdowns amid a sea of blitzes as Florida upset the sixth-ranked Tigers, 19-7, in a key Southeastern Conference contest.

"That defense was tough, but I just had to keep playing and keep my composure and keep going," said Leak, who was sacked six times. "You just have to keep trying to make positive plays."

"We try to affect the quarterback as much as possible," Tigers defensive end Marcus Spears said. "We got to him a couple of times, but it just wasn't good enough."

The Gators (4-3, 2-2 SEC East) intercepted Matt Mauck twice and recovered a fumble as they avoided losing to LSU in back-to-back years for the first time since 1986-87.

Florida has won seven of its last eight games at Tiger Stadium and 14 of the last 16 meetings overall.

Gators coach Ron Zook had come under fire for a mediocre start that included a tough home loss to Mississippi. But Saturday's victory at Tiger Stadium - one of the toughest venues for a visiting team in all of college football - undoubtedly reduced some of the heat.

"As I have been saying all along, we are a good football team," Zook said. "We made some mistakes today, but I think we will continue to improve and to continue to believe. We just happened to beat a good football team today."

"We knew we were playing a very dangerous team, like playing a caged animal in terms of what was on the line for their season, so you have to give them a lot of credit for the intensity they played with and the way they played," Tigers coach Nick Saban said. The Gators appeared to be in trouble after the Tigers' Skyler Green returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown just 3:19 into the contest.

But Leak led the Gators down the field, capping a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 22-yard TD pass to Ran Carthon five minutes later.

It was the Gators' longest and farthest drive of the season and was the first points the Tigers' defense had allowed in a first half this year.

Florida took the lead for good on a 30-yard field goal by Matt Leach with 3:17 left in the opening quarter.

Florida held a 13-7 lead before Leak completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ciatrick Fason with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter. Leak's two-point conversion pass to Ben Troupe was incomplete.

"I am very, very proud of Ciatrick," said Zook. "I'm proud of what he did. He had some big plays today. I'm just really, really happy for him."

Fason had seven catches for 92 yards.

With 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the contest, Mauck completed a long pass to Devery Henderson, but he was stripped of the ball by Gators cornerback Johnny Lamar and free safety Daryl Dixon recovered the ball at the Florida 14.

"I think we brought it together today, especially against a good offensive team ranked sixth in the country and coming into their place," Dixon said.

On the next play, Fason ran 63 yards and the Gators ran out the clock.

Leak completed 18-of-30 passes for 229 yards without an interception, while Mauck went 19-of-33 for 231 yards.

"You don't want a loss to motivate you," Mauck said. "But, unfortunately, in that situation, that's what we had happen. Now we're going to have to go back and refocus and really concentrate on executing and getting better in practice."

Mauck was sacked three times, all by defensive end Bobby McCray.

"We wanted to come out and try to confuse him and try to make him beat us with his arm instead of them running the ball," Gators cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said. "We took away the run early so we forced them to throw the ball."

LSU (5-1, 2-1 West), which had a bye last week, had not started 6-0 since winning its first nine games in 1973.

"We've got a lot of improving to do," Saban said. "Our only score was on special teams. We've got to do a better job as coaches. The players will respond in the right way to this and too bad you've got to have something bad happen to get you moving in the right direction. But hopefully our willingness to learn and responsibility that everyone needs to take to become a good football team will be how we respond to this."

Leach's career-long 50-yard field goal with 5:37 left in the first half gave Florida a 13-7 lead.

The Gators held the Tigers to just 56 yards on 24 carries and 287 yards overall.


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