In a wild third quarter—which featured fantastic plays, baffling blunders and tremendous athleticism—Florida nearly gave the game away before snatching it back again. After a Chris Leak interception led to a McFadden touchdown pass that cut the Gators' advantage to 17?14, Arkansas took its first and only lead when 6' 3", 255-pound defensive end Antwain Robinson intercepted a Leak shovel pass and returned it 40 yards to put the Razorbacks up 21?17.
On their next possession the Gators were stopped in their tracks, and the momentum had clearly swung until Meyer gained it back with the high-risk fake punt. "If we were not going to be successful, I was going to make sure to shoot everything we've got," Meyer said. "It's a play we've probably run a thousand times in practice over the last two years, and we had a senior punter flipping to a senior playmaker. It was big for us."
Five plays later Florida was facing a much more manageable fourth-and-one from its own 41 and called timeout to discuss what to do. Go for broke? Nope. Meyer decided to punt, and Wilbur launched a 54-yard rocket that the Hogs' Reggie Fish fumbled into the end zone. Wondy Pierre-Louis recovered, and just like that Florida was back up, 24?21. Sometimes it's better to be lucky.
"I was all set to go for it, but [co?defensive coordinator] Greg Mattison talked me out of it. He said, 'It's early.' So we punted it, and it worked out exactly how I planned it," Meyer later said with a smile.
That was all the luck the Gators would need. They regained control and didn't panic even when flanker Cedric Washington threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jones to cut Florida's lead to 31?28 with 12:29 remaining. Leak calmly led the Gators on an 80-yard drive—gaining 62 of those with his arm and legs—to set up a five-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Andre Caldwell.
For Florida it was a display of experience and youth. Just when it looked as if Leak was going to crumple, he buckled down and regained his composure. "I've been though the wringer, and I've learned that you have to have a short memory," said Leak, who surpassed Danny Wuerffel's mark of 10,875 career yards to become the Gators' alltime leading passer and threw his 87th career touchdown pass (his 100th TD overall). "My teammates were confident in me, and I knew we could turn things around."
And then there was Harvin, a one-man highlight reel who can change a game in a millisecond. His 67-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter put the Gators comfortably ahead, 31?21, and seemed to seal the Razorbacks' fate. Harvin burst through the line, found the slightest opening, and then he was gone. Afterward you could see the deflation in the Arkansas players. "I did the easy part," Harvin said. "It was good blocking by the five up front. We knew once I made one man miss, there was nobody back in the secondary."
"That run broke our back," Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said. "We knew he was a tremendous threat. He's the one that changed the momentum of the game in the fourth quarter. We had everything under control, but he broke one. We had two guys in position, and they just whiffed. When you do that with a guy like that, you see what happens."
As Florida celebrated on the field after the victory, freshman Jamar Hornsby turned to Harvin and said, "This isn't the last time we're going to be here. We're going to be back here next year and the next year and the year after that."
After entrusting the championship trophy to his players, Meyer walked off the confetti-littered field. He got halfway down the tunnel when he turned and paused. The computers, the polls and the potential showdown with Ohio State could wait. "I'm not ready to go in just yet," Meyer said as he walked back out onto the Georgia Dome turf to the wild cheers of Florida fans. "I need to savor this for a few more moments."