The Florida Gators beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 on Jan. 1, 2012, to become the Gator Bowl champions. The Gators needed the victory to have a winning season and to give fans like me something to be happy about.
The news coming into the Gator Bowl was not good for the Gators. Their old coach, Urban Myer, is going to coach the Buckeyes next season. The Gators had also lost strength coach Mickey Marotti. More importantly, the team would be without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left the team to become the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Perhaps the Gators missed Charlie Weiss. The team only managed 263 total yards of offense. The Gators' offense failed to control the game. The team possessed the ball less than 28 minutes. Florida turned the ball over three times, with two fumbles and an interception. The Gators had a balanced attack with 132 yards passing and 131 yards rushing. Quarterback John Brantley hooked up with wide receiver Deonte Thompson on a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Florida's offense did not produce a lot, but the Gators' defense stepped up. The defense held Ohio State to 299 yards of total offense and forced two fumbles. The Gators limited the Buckeyes to 162 yards of passing, but gave up two touchdown passes. Ohio State only managed 137 yards rushing against the Florida defense.
Florida's special teams were the difference in the game. Andre Debose had a 99-yard kick off return in the second quarter. The Gators kept the lead the rest of the game. Florida scored again on special teams in the third quarter when Graham Stewart returned a blocked punt 14 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Caleb Sturgis made three extra points and added a 17-yard field goal.
Florida salvaged a winning season. Will Muschamp took a little heat off of himself. Florida has lots of holes to fill in the coaching staff and on the field before next season. The Gators need to improve as the fan base won't tolerate mediocrity just ask former coach Ron Zook. However, at least for now, as a Florida fan I don't have to hear about the Buckeyes beating the Gators.
I am a Florida Gators fan who lived outside of Jacksonville, Florida, growing up. My brother went to the University of Florida.