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The Top Plays: #2

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Previous Top Plays:
Play #3: Wondy Pierre-Louis's Fumble Recovery for TD vs. Arkansas
Play #4: Dallas Baker's 25 Yd TD Catch vs. FSU
Play #5: Percy Harvin's 67 Yd TD Run vs. Arkansas

Today, #2 is up...

#2 Top Play of 2006
Dallas Baker's 21 Yd Game-Winning TD Catch
Vs. Tennessee, 6:30 in 4th Quarter

Dallas Baker makes his second appearance on my top-5 plays list with his game winning touchdown catch against the Vols in Knoxville.  Clearly this was an important play - the Gators were trailing 20-14 late in the 4th quarter, having trailed earlier in the game by as many as 10 points.  The late drive that produced this catch from the arm of QB Chris Leak went 65 yards and gave the Gators the lead, which ended up being good enough to take the win against a big SEC East rival.

The Tennessee game, just like every other year, was a very important game to decide the path that the Gators season would take.  Since the Vols have been the SEC opener for Florida since I can remember, getting a win over them is huge not only in the standings, being that the two teams are normally East powers, but also because of momentum.  In 2004, for instance, a close loss at the hands of the Volunteers in Knoxville set the wheels in motion for a 5-loss season - something that was seen as unacceptable and resulted in the firing of a certain head coach.

One reason that this play was so huge not only in the context of the 2006 was the troubles of the Urban Meyer coached Gators team on the road last season...a season in which they lost 3 road games to SEC opponents:  Alabama, LSU and South Carolina.  Winning in Knoxville would not only give Urban Meyer a 2-0 record against Phil Fulmer and the Vols, but a big SEC road win under his belt.  This was very important in my eyes, as I feel winning in Knoxville let some of the disappointments of last season's road woes go away.

Yeah. It was exciting.

Another reason this catch was so huge was that it was vital in quieting criticisms received after a late personal foul in the 2004 Tennessee game perhaps allowed the Vols to kick the game winning FG against the Gators.  With time running out and the Gators trying to run the clock out, Dallas Baker retaliated against a Tennessee DB, stopping the clock (although it should have kept running) and knocking the Gators back 15 yards before the punt.  The time stoppage and extra yardage gained gave Tennessee enough time and good enough field position to set up for a long James Wilhoit FG and the win.  It seemed pretty suitable that Baker had the game winning score for the Gators in this one.

Dallas Baker did not only catch a 21 yard touchdown pass in this one.  He gave the Gators an early advantage in the SEC East standings, helped his team win in Knoxville after a disappointing result in 2004, and gave head coach Urban Meyer a big SEC road win.  This is why it deserves to be near the top when discussing the top plays of the 2006 season...however, it's not #1.  That will come tomorrow.