Ohio State falls to Florida 24-17 in Gator Bowl
Ohio State can take solace in knowing that Urban Meyer loves
And there’s no doubt Meyer will spend the next eight months
reminding his new team what happened in Jacksonville.
The Buckeyes gave up two touchdowns on special teams in a 24-17
loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl on Monday, clearly the difference
in a game between Meyer’s former and future teams.
Andre Debose returned a kickoff 99 yards – the longest scoring
play in bowl history – and Chris Rainey blocked a punt that was
returned for a touchdown.
The speedsters helped the Gators (7-6) avoid their first losing
season since 1979 and pick up some much-needed momentum after
losing six of their previous eight games.
”When you have two good teams play each other, it’s usually
special teams that will make the difference,” Ohio State
cornerback Tyler Moeller said. ”That’s what it was today.”
Ohio State (6-7) dropped four straight to finish below .500 for
the first time since 1988, and lost seven games for the first time
Meyer officially takes over at Ohio State this week and surely
will make it a priority to improve special teams. Meyer did that in
his six seasons in Gainesville, and Rainey and Debose were two of
his most prized recruits.
”The two touchdowns on the special teams play were tough,”
Buckeyes center Mike Brewster said. ”It’s demoralizing. It’s like
a free touchdown. But we had a lot of young guys in there. We had
some injured guys who weren’t in there, and the people we had in
there did the best they could.”
Ohio State fell to 0-10 in bowl games against teams from the
Southeastern Conference. Yes, the Buckeyes beat Arkansas in the
Sugar Bowl last year. But that victory was vacated.
The latest loss had a lot to do with Florida’s speed.
The Gators dominated the defensive line of scrimmage. They had a
season-high six sacks, harassing Braxton Miller on nearly every
passing play. Jaye Howard and Sharrif Floyd were disruptive all
”Give (Florida) a lot of credit for calling those blitzes, some
of those we had not seen before,” Brewster said. ”We didn’t do a
good job of adjusting to them. It’s tough to adjust to new schemes
like that during a game.
Florida had similar success the last time it played Ohio State,
a 41-14 victory in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series national title
game in Glendale, Ariz.
Debose and Rainey proved to be game-changers in the much-hyped
rematch that centered around Meyer.
Just after Ohio State tied the game at 7 on Miller’s 5-yard pass
to DeVier Posey in the second quarter, Debose took the kickoff,
made one cut to the outside and went untouched for his third career
kickoff return for a touchdown. The Buckeyes never got close enough
to even swipe at him, let alone make the tackle.
”It meant a lot to me,” Debose said. ”I just tried to do
anything that I can do to help the team. … There is no feeling
Florida was up 14-10 at halftime and essentially put the game
out of reach on the opening possession of the third.
Rainey came off the left end and blocked Ben Buchanan’s punt.
Seldom-used linebacker Graham Stewart scooped it up at the 14-yard
line and scored the first touchdown of his career.
It was Rainey’s sixth blocked punt of his career, breaking the
school and SEC record.
Rainey also ran for 71 yards on a warm and sunny day in
Jacksonville. John Brantley completed 12 of 16 passes for 132
yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He had a 17-yard
strike to Deonte Thompson in the first.
Ohio State wasn’t nearly as effective.
Miller completed 18 of 23 passes for 162 yards and two
touchdowns. He also ran 15 times for 20 yards. He completed an
11-yard TD pass to Jordan Hall with 57 seconds remaining. The
Buckeyes failed to recover an onside kick, and Florida ran out the
clock for its sixth bowl victory in the last seven years, including
four in a row.
”This whole season was a learning process,” Miller said. ”I
learned as the season went on. I could have played better. I’m
anxious to get going for next year.”