It was a blowout.
The best team in the nation proved it with authority, and made people question if the other team should even be there.
But wait, it was also so very, very different than what everyone expected. The three things mentioned above happened, but it’s not the red and silver who are celebrating, but rather the blue and orange. How can that be? Could Florida really be the best team in the nation? Who would ever have thought that the champion of the nation’s toughest conference would go into the biggest game of the season and down a team that had an inferior schedule in a weaker conference? Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. I think we picked Florida right here, on this very blog. Indeed we did. Alright, enough sarcasm. On to the analysis.
What went right for Florida:
Field position. Throughout the first half, the Gators turned great field position into 34 points. Only one of Florida’s first half scoring drives started inside their own 30, and that one was a 71-yard touchdown drive that started at their own 29. Florida started first half drives at the Ohio State 46 (resulting in a touchdown), the Ohio State 34 (touchdown), their own 29 (touchdown), their own 20 (punt), their own 42 (field goal), the Ohio State 29 (field goal), and the Ohio State 5 (touchdown). That’s an AVERAGE drive start of about a foot outside the Ohio State 46-yard-line. Even if you throw out that last possession (which began as a result of Troy Smith getting sacked and fumbling), Florida’s average drive start was at their own 47. Ohio State let Florida work with a short field far too often, and it resulted in a halftime hole they could never dig out of.
What went wrong for Ohio State:
Their offensive line. Yikes. Troy Smith was under siege all night long. He was sacked five times, and forced out of the pocket or hurried more than a handful more times. One sack near the end of the second quarter resulted in a fumble which gave Florida the ball at the Ohio State five-yard-line and led to the touchdown which pretty much put the game out of reach at half time. The Buckeye offensive line was just not very good all night and were simply over-powered by Derrick Harvey (3 sacks) and Jarvis Moss (2 sacks).
Turning point of the game:
There’s 3:43 to play in the second quarter and the score is 24-14 Florida. Ohio State faces fourth-and-one at their own 29. A 10-point deficit shouldn’t be cause for panic when your offense is led by the Heisman Trophy winner. Yet, panic is exactly what Buckeye coach Jim Tressel did. He chose to go for it and Chris Wells got stuffed on a halfback smash play over the right side. That’s a turnover on downs, which Florida quickly converts into a field goal. Having their coach flinch first really took out whatever wind might have been left in the Buckeyes sails. Troy Smith came back out on the field and fumbled the football, which turned into another seven points for Florida, and the game was effectively over by halftime.
Play of the game:
There’s a few plays you could turn to for this one, but I’m going to pick a slightly different one than a lot of people would. With just over six minutes left in the second quarter, Florida faced fourth-and-15 at the Ohio State 26, and held a 21-14 lead. Chris Hetland came in and lined up to kick a 43-yard field goal. The commentators on FOX proceeded to remind us that Hetland had a rough year and had converted on only four of his 13 field goal attempts. However, the snap came back, the hold went down, and Hetland blasted one straight through the middle of the uprights. His pretty much perfect kick gave the Gators a 10-point lead and more importantly inflated Florida’s confidence in their ability to put points on the board one way or another. Furthermore, it rattled Ohio State and coach Tressel, as would become obvious on the next drive, when Tressel would make the play call which served as the turning point of the game above.
Looking back to yesterday’s post, we highlighted three match-ups that would be keys to this game. Let’s take a brief look at how each went:
Troy Smith vs. Florida defense (result: bigtime advantage, Florida)
The Florida defense was on Smith like white on rice all night long. The Heisman Trophy winner never had a chance. Of course, as we mentioned above, his offensive line didn’t help. The Florida defense recorded five sacks, forced and recovered a fumble, and picked up an interception against Smith.
Florida quarterbacks vs. Ohio State linebackers (result: another big win for Florida)
The two-quarterback system in use by Florida confounded the Ohio State defense all night long. On the first play of the second half, the Gators faced third-and-goal at the Ohio State two-yard line. Tim Tebow is on the field, so everyone expects him to keep the ball and head for the endzone. Instead, he hands off to DeShawn Wynn who heads straight up the middle for the score. Later, with 23 seconds left in the second quarter, again Florida faces third-and-goal, this time from the Ohio State three-yard line. Tebow on the field again, and he takes the ball from the center and starts to roll left. He’s just going to lower the shoulder and plow to the endzone, right? Wrong. Pass to Andre Caldwell for six points. The Buckeyes didn’t know what was coming from the Florida offense, and that was thanks to the Gators using multiple looks with both of their quarterbacks.
Florida running game vs. Ohio State front seven (result: slight edge, Florida)
The Gator running game was definitely not as successful as I thought it would have to be for a win. However, it was just effective enough. The combination of running back threats and quarterbacks who can run the ball left Ohio State with no idea what would happen in short-yardage situations. In addition, while they technically counted as pass plays, Florida threw a number of balls out in the flats which were caught either behind or at the line of scrimmage and used screens for their backs and receivers to turn them into respectable gains.
All in all, the game was the blowout that everyone expected.
Except that it was everything they didn’t expect as well.
Just a couple of random links:
Pennsylvania Man Receives Letter Postmarked in 1954 – Ladies and gentlemen, the United States Postal Service.
Duke Lacrosse Player Speaks Out to Newsweek – Nice to see that he’s fighting to keep going in life despite the fact that the District Attorney in North Carolina seems hell-bent on ruining it. Someday, the Duke Lacrosse saga will be looked at as one of the tragic sports stories of our time. The lack of ethics from the prosecution have been nothing short of astounding.