Florida Claims Second National Title
by Mike Mitchell
In a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, Florida captured its first BCS title and second national title with a 41-14 rout of favored Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona.
Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the opening kick-off 93 yards for an Ohio State touchdown but never touched the ball again as he left with a sprained ankle. In his absence, the Buckeye offense was held to a net of 82 yards. Troy Smith, winner of the Heisman Trophy, was 4-for-14 for 35 yards and an interception.
Meanwhile, Chris Leak completed his first nine passes and finished 25-of-36 for 213 and a TD. Tim Tebow scored a TD rushing and passing as the Gators racked up 372 yards with their dual quarterback offense. Florida had 24 first downs to just 6 for Ohio State.
The championship came in Urban Meyer's second season as head coach at Florida, just as it did for Jim Tressel with Ohio State in 2002. Meyer, who earned his master's in sports administration from Ohio State and was a Buckeye graduate assistant in 1986 and 1987, has never lost a bowl game as head coach. He went 2-0 at Utah and is now 2-0 with Florida.
It's the Gators' first national title since the 1996 season when they defeated arch-rival Florida State 52-20 in a rematch of a game they lost at the end of the regular season.
Florida wasted no time in answering Ohio State's kick-off return. The Gators began with excellent field position at Ohio State's 46-yard line after a 15-yard personal foul penalty was tacked on to Brandon James' 33-yard return. Seven
plays later, Leak hooked up with Dallas Baker on a 14-yard scoring toss to tie the game at 7-7 only 4:29 into the game.
On their next possession, the Gators grabbed a lead that they would never relinquish and, once again, Ohio State helped.
The Buckeyes were called for another personal foul on a punt return that put Florida in business at the Ohio State 34-yard line. From there, only five plays were needed before freshman sensation Percy Harvin made it to the goal line on a 4-yard run.
Smith was intercepted on Ohio State's next possession and Florida marched 71 yards in 10 plays to go ahead 21-7 on DeShawn Wynn's 2-yard run on the opening play of the second quarter.
Then, it was Florida's turn to help Ohio State get something going. After a rare Smith completion gained 14 yards to the Buckeye 49, the Gators were flagged 15 yards for roughing the passer. Three plays later, Antonio Pittman scored on an 18-yard run to make it 21-14.
However, things unraveled quickly for Ohio State in the last six minutes of the half.
After the teams traded punts, Florida got into position for a 43-yard Chris Hetland field goal attempt. Hetland, who missed on 9 of his 13 kicks during the regular season, sent it cleanly through the uprights.
When Ohio State was faced with a 4th-and-1 on their own 29-yard line on the ensuing series, Tressel made an uncharacteristic call. Trying to provide a spark for his team, he elected to go for the first down. But Chris Wells was stuffed for no gain and Hetland soon added his second field goal - this time from 40 yards out.
On the first play after the kick-off, Smith was sacked and fumbled at his own 5-yard line. That turnover allowed Florida to take a 34-14 lead to the locker room when Tebow, running around the left side, pulled up and threw a pass to Andre Caldwell.
In just two quarters, Florida scored more points on the Ohio State defense than any team, except Michigan, had managed in a game all season. And by the time the game was over, Florida's 41 points surpassed the Wolverines' 39. Of course, Florida won and Michigan lost. The most telling statement in those stats is that a Buckeye defense which surrendered 86 points in its first 11 games, gave up 80 points in its final two.