Forget the fact that he completed 21 passes on 34 attempts for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Forget that he often gets pulled in the middle of a series only to be the quarterback that has to deliver in a third down and long situation knowing the offense better than his ultra hyped understudy.
Today, Leak came in and delivered a drive to win the game when everyone in the stadium knew he was going to have to throw to win and the running game was abandoned.
Superstar freshman Percy Harvin went out with an injury and the Gators became a tad discombobulated. When starting running back DeShawn Wynn went out the staff evidently felt like they had no other option but to pass the ball or run it with receivers on end -arounds.
In turn, the third quarter became a nasty field position turn around for the School Out West (SOW) who turned that into 14 points and a tie into the fourth quarter. Up steps Cool Hand Leak, who took the next drive and went seven for eight for 81 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball for a five yards and a first down in the drive.
This was despite two of the main weapons on offense he and the offense built their game plan around during the week. This was on the road in a place where the Gators have won only once before in 20 years. This was against an arch rival that for all intents and purposes was calling this their bowl game.
Leak has gotten his share of criticism over the years. A couple of slides before the first down marker have created a label for him and a highly undeserved one at that.
If there is one thing true about Leak is that he is not afraid to play the game. He may not be the world’s best runner with the football. He may not be instinctual enough to get some yardage that a hot shot freshman in Tim Tebow is able to get. But, he will sit in the pocket and make plays with his arm when given time.
He would love to have that interception he threw at the end of the game against a 10-2 Auburn team. All things considered, Leak made late throws in huge games against a nine win Tennessee team on the road, and a ten win LSU team, a possible eight win Georgia team. He led the drive to win the game against a South Carolina team that is really playing well at the end of the season.
I remember the drive for the field goal to beat Georgia in 2003 when Leak was a freshman. How he took a beating and stood in the pocket against LSU on the road and defeated the eventual National Champions by sitting in the pocket and making throws.
The list really goes on and on for a guy that isn't always beloved by some Gator fans.
How about this?
Leak is now 3-1 as a starter vs. SOW with two wins at Ron Zook Field. Save for the “Swindle in the Swamp,” he should be 4-0.
Leak is 3-1 against Georgia and the lone loss came the week his former head coach was fired.
Leak is 2-1 against Tennessee and should be 3-0 except for the mystery time keeper at the Vols stadium.
Leak has beaten two outstanding LSU teams both home and away.
He is the first Gator quarterback to win in Knoxville, against Georgia (three times), at the SOW (twice), in Baton Rouge, and win a bowl game.
He does it and he never wants praise. He does it time and time again. The close games are hell on all of us, but for Leak, way more often than not does what he is supposed to do. Is this his shining moment as a Gator? No. This was just another chapter in a great career for a guy that deserves more respect than he gets.
Cool Hand Leak is the resuscitator for a team that lives on the edge and a huge reason why the Gators are still alive for conference and national aspirations.