GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Dallas Baker had a career-high 123 yards receiving and a touchdown, and No. 13 Florida rebounded from its first loss of the season with a lackluster 35-9 victory against Mississippi State on Saturday.

The Gators also avenged last year’s 38-31 defeat in Starkville, one of the most embarrassing losses in school history that cost coach Ron Zook his job.

Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) didn’t spend much time this week talking about revenge, though. Players and coaches were more concerned about correcting problems that resulted in a 31-3 loss at Alabama a week ago, a game in which the Gators failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 13 years.

Urban Meyer’s offense showed some improvement against Mississippi State, but continued a trend of inconsistency primarily due to a shaky offensive line, a weak running game and a quarterback who has yet to fully grasp the spread-option offense.

Defense and special teams were vastly improved, however, although it came against the lowly Bulldogs (2-4, 0-4). Mississippi State has been outscored 123-26 in four conference games (Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida).

The defense – gashed early and often by the Tide – finished with six sacks, three turnovers and two safeties. The defense also knocked quarterback Omarr Conner out of the game in the second quarter.

Special teams downed four punts inside the 15-yard line, recovered a muffed punt to set up a score and blocked one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The offense needed help early.

Chris Leak, playing with a sore right shoulder injured against the Tide, threw an interception on the opening drive. Running back Kestahn Moore fumbled twice – the Gators recovered both – before getting benched. And Florida scored just once, a field goal, in its first six possessions.

Jonathan Lowe’s fumbled punt got the Gators going in the second quarter. DeShawn Wynn scored on the ensuing play, a 13-yard run that included several missed tackles and put the Gators ahead 12-3.

Florida looked to increase the lead, but Chad Jackson’s fumble at the 1-yard line landed on the pylon and resulted in a touchback for the Bulldogs.

Mike Henig found Keon Humphries for a 56-yard gain right before half, but Keith Andrews missed a field goal that might have given Mississippi State some momentum.

Leak scored on a quarterback keeper in the third to make it 19-3, but Jerious Norwood answered with a career-long 76-yard TD run. Norwood, who ran for 174 yards against Florida last season, finished with 113 yards on the ground.

The defense responded with a safety on Mississippi State’s next possession, then Leak put the game away with a 15-yard TD pass to Baker. Leak finished 18-of-33 for 244 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Terrence Holmes capped the scoring when he recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

AP-ES-10-08-05 1618EDT


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