For a matchup between two teams with 6-6 records, the 2012 Gator Bowl had plenty of story lines.
Florida was trying to avoid their first losing season since 1979, while Ohio State hadn’t seen a losing season since 1988. The matchup was also the first time the two teams have met since they played for a national championship in 2007.
Not to mention Urban Meyer coming out of retirement, a mere 10 months after leaving Florida, to take the head coaching job at Ohio State.
The Gators were able to come away with a victory and will be able to take that momentum into recruiting and next season.
Let’s take a look at how the Gators were able to beat the Buckeyes and grade how each unit performed.
As it has for much of the season, the Gators struggled to really get anything going on offense.
Ohio State outgained Florida 299 yards to 263 yards despite losing the game. John Brantley threw one touchdown pass in the first quarter to Deonte Thompson; no that is not a typo, and yes, that was Thompson’s first touchdown this season.
The running game never got moving, and the Gators offense did just enough to not lose the game.
For as well as the Gators defense has played this season, they only forced 12 turnovers all season, a measly one per game average.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said the team would work extra on creating turnovers during the bowl practices, and it seems like the Gators were listening.
Florida forced two fumbles, and the defense kept the Gators competitive and Ohio State at bay all afternoon.
The Gators also got to the quarterback, another area where they have struggled at times this season.
It seems fitting that Florida would dominate on special teams against Urban Meyer’s new school.
Meyer always emphasized the importance of special teams, and the Gators showed why special teams is so important.
Andre Debose, who received player of the game, took a kickoff 99 yards untouched to the house, and Chris Rainey blocked his SEC and school-record sixth career punt which was returned for another score.
The Gators did a good job on kickoff coverage, holding the Buckeyes to 64 return yards on four tries.
New offensive coordinator Brian White mixed up his play-calling well during the game, getting a lot of players’ touches rather than relying on Chris Rainey as Charlie Weis did.
On defense, Dan Quinn dialed up blitz packages and never allowed Braxton Miller to get comfortable in the pocket.
Only one call could really be questioned. The Gators faced a fourth down inside Ohio State’s 1-yard line and elected to kick a field goal rather than going for a touchdown which would have made it a three-possession game.
Even if you are unsuccessful on the attempt, the Buckeyes would be starting their drive in the shadow of their own goal post, 99 yards from a score.
Overall, the coaches prepared the team well for the Buckeyes in all facets of the game, and it showed on the field.
It’s amazing how much better 7-6 feels that 6-7.
Getting a win against the Buckeyes will send the Gators into the offseason with confidence, and it certainty won’t hurt recruiting.
Beating Urban Meyer’s new team with the unit that Meyer prided himself with most is also pretty sweet for any Gator fans still bitter about his return to college football.