2012 Gator Bowl: Grading the Buckeyes' Loss to Florida
The Buckeyes had their worst season in about 115 years finally come to a merciful end as the Florida Gators took care of Ohio State 24-17 in the Gator Bowl.
It wasn't a blowout, but Florida definitely was the better team through most of the game.
Thankfully, it is the end of a terrible season of football in Columbus and the official beginning of the Urban Meyer era.
But it's time to take a look back at the Buckeyes' Gator Bowl loss with one last report card.
Believe it or not, the Ohio State offense actually out-gained the Florida offense that afternoon.
But the offensive line failed time and time again to contain Will Muschamp's exotic blitzes, as Braxton Miller had to pick himself up off the deck multiple times in the day. He did throw for two touchdowns but was limited to just 20 yards rushing, most of which was negated by the six times he was sacked.
The running game had its moments as Dan Herron had 82 yards on 12 carries, but Ohio State combined to average only 3.7 yards per carry.
Seniors Dan Herron and DeVier Posey each had terrible fumbles that hurt offensive momentum and killed whatever hopes of improving their sinking NFL draft stock.
The offensive line...well, let's just say that new (rumored) OL coach Ed Warriner can't possibly do a worse job than Jim Bollman. The Buckeyes did have a nice drive to give themselves a shot at the end of the game when Jordan Hall took a short pass and made multiple Gators miss on the way to a great TD.
But the loss shows how much Miller needs to improve. He missed on short throws and overthrew to a wide open DeVier Posey all alone in the end zone. Luckily, those problems are very coachable, and Urban Meyer and new QB coach/offensive coordinator Tom Herman should be able to work with Miller to improve those kinks in his game.
Hopefully for Ohio State, this is the last time their offense fails to live up to the talent they recruit.
Final Grade: C-
The Buckeyes defense has been surprisingly bad in the final month of the season, but this loss was certainly not on the defense...sort of.
Ohio State forced three turnovers, including a John Brantley interception, and they kept the wraps on explosive runners Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
The group only gave up one touchdown on a pass completion to Deonte Thompson, but they only stopped Florida on half of their third-down attempts. They showed many of the agonizing soft zones that plagued the Buckeyes in their last loss to the Gators in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
Up front, the defensive line played a pretty good game, including John Simon and Adam Bellamy who each had big hits on Brantley.
The linebackers were solid, with Etienne Sabino who had his best game of the season laying some hard hits on Florida players all afternoon.
The secondary was pretty solid as well, only giving up two plays of over 20 yards during the entire game.
Plain and simple, the defense kept Ohio State in the game against a Florida offense that didn't really light up the scoreboard. Then again, Purdue and Penn State weren't explosive offenses either, and they played better against the Buckeyes defense earlier in the year.
They didn't make enough plays to win the game, but they did well enough to give their team a chance to win.
Final Grade: B+
In every sense of the word, special teams cost Ohio State the win.
When you not only give up a kick return for a score and have a blocked punt returned for a score, you're going to lose. Period.
In games like this where the smallest of margins can decide the outcome, special teams usually makes the difference.
And in Jacksonville, special teams killed the Buckeyes.
Final Grade: F
Obviously, the loss hurts for Buckeyes fans. But most fans are ready to move on and get the current coaching staff out of town.
Dick Tressel, Jim Bollman, Jim Heacock and Nick Siciliano will not be back next season as part of Urban Meyer's staff.
Luke Fickell, Taver Johnson and Mike Vrabel will all stay on board with Meyer and, in the case of Fickell, take a reduced role.
But the coaches certainly hurt Ohio State in this game as their game plan looked recycled from the national title game loss to Florida five years ago.
And if it didn't work then, it's even more mind-boggling to think that it would work with less talent.
Going through this season, it's so amazing to look back and think about how Jim Tressel made things work and win in spite of his assistant coaches, especially the offensive coaches.
Nothing changed after his Memorial Day departure, except the Tressel magic was gone.
Now, there appears to be a competent coaching staff around Urban Meyer instead of the "yes men" and family members that followed Tressel to Columbus.
This game, as disappointing as the ending was, finally brings to an end one of the worst coaching staffs in all of college football.
Final Grade: F
Ohio State failed to end their winless (on paper) bowl record against the SEC, but certainly weren't embarrassed like the last time they lost to Florida. The Buckeyes did make some good plays and were certainly in the game at times.
But more than anything, this game finally ends the longest five months Ohio State has had in the modern era with their first losing season in over 20 years.
There are many things Ohio State needs to figure out, including how to find fast playmakers to make their offense look less offensive.
It showed that while Braxton Miller can be a solid QB, he needs some help to get himself to the level that Terrelle Pryor was at from a passing standpoint.
The Meyer era began right after the game, with a team meeting at seven the morning after the game, signaling the end of both a happy and disappointing era.
The Jim Tressel era is officially over, with most of his assistants being relieved of their duties and a new man becoming full-time coach.
This game was a microcosm of the whole 2011 season: poor coaching decisions and indecisive play by players on both sides of the ball. Couple that with abnormal breakdowns and the continued lack of senior leadership, and you have a 6-7 season.
The loss of the Gator Bowl is not turning the page, it's more like taking that book, stashing it in an old, dusty box in the attic and grabbing a brand new book from Barnes and Noble.
That's what the Urban Meyer will be; a new era and a (hopeful) revolution in Buckeye Nation.
Final Grade: C
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