BY LANE HACKER
The University of Florida Gators. The Swamp. Each of these hold historic value among college football fans, and the significance of these are only increasing after the Gators dominated the Ohio State Buckeyes, beating them 41-14. Winning this game, capped an amazing season that included a 13-1 records, a SEC championship and most importantly a national championship.
The offensive fireworks were led by the two-headed monster at quarterback, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. The defense was led by strong play from their defense line, sacking Heisman trophy winner, Troy Smith, 5 times and holding him to negative 29 yards rushing on 10 carries. Florida Gator’s coach, Urban Meyer, used an excellent offense and defense strategy to out coach Buckeye’s coach Jim Tressel, and help the Gator’s win their second national championship in school history.
“Honestly, we’ve played a lot better teams than them,” Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss said.
“I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them.”
The Gators were the underdogs and nobody expected them to win except the Gators themselves. College football fans across the nation said that the Gators didn’t even belong on the same field as the undefeated Buckeyes, and were asking for a rematch of the Big Ten Championship against the Michigan Wolverines or a game against the undefeated Boise State Broncos. The Gators proved the critics wrong with the stunning defeat.
The supposedly tough Buckeye’s defense was no match for the Gators offense. The offense compiled 214 yards passing and 156 yards rushing. Chris Leak was extremely efficient completing 25 out of 36 passes (69.4%) and one touchdown. The freshman sensation, Tim Tebow, threw and ran for a touchdown. DeShawn Wynn was the leading rusher for the Gators, gathering 69 yards and a touchdown. Percy Harvin, another freshman superstar, led the team in receiving, catching 9 passes for 60 yards and also ran for another touchdown off a direct snap from center. Dallas Baker and Andre Caldwell each caught a touchdown as well. The Gator’s offense had its strongest performance of the year in the game that mattered most.
The Gator’s complemented their offense with more than stellar defense as well. Derrick Harvey, one of the top Defensive End recruits in 2004, finally fulfilled his potential by getting 4 sacks and forcing and recovering a fumble. Earl Everret, Ray McDonald and Jarvis Moss each contributed one sack as well. Reggie Lewis intercepted a pass in the end of the first quarter to end an Ohio State drive. This was beginning of the end for Ohio State, as Florida scored on the next possession to put the Gators in the lead by 14 points.
Although the 2006 season was amazing for Gators’ fans, 2007 may be harder to watch. The 2007 Gators are very inexperienced as there are only 7 seniors or 8 juniors on the team. The offense will now be led by sophomore Tim Tebow, who hopes to prove that he is more then just a running quarterback. Tebow will be throwing to senior Andre Caldwell and sophomore Percy Harvin, who have both proven to be skilled enough to change a game. The biggest problem is tailback as one runner has yet to solidify himself as a starter.
The Gators’ defense is in more shambles than the offense. The defense returns only two starters, Derrick Harvey and strong safety Tony Joiner. Free safety Kyle Jackson, defensive tackles Javier Estopinan and Clint McMillan and linebackers Dustin Doe and Brandon Spikes will all be starters this upcoming season for the first time, but they have had playing time prior to this season. The defense could prove to be a critical flaw in the tough SEC.
The Florida Gators’ recruiting class was ranked number one by several websites. They have 4 five star recruits according to Rivals.com, with quarterback Cameron Newton being ranked their top prospect. He will be used similar to how Tim Tebow was used this past season. Also, the Gators were able to sign 7 players from Lakeland High School, the defending state champions of Florida. Running backs Bo Williams and Chris Rainey both will be considered in the race for starting running back. The chaos in the defense will be helped by the signing of 2 five star defensive linemen and 4 four star defensive backs. This top ranked recruiting class will hopefully aid the Gators in defending their national title.
“I’m very pleased with the way Tim (Tebow) managed the offense today. I was disappointed with Cameron (Newton) in first half, but he came back well in the second half and made some plays for his team. This was the first time that (Newton) has been in front of this kind of crowd, so that is why we wanted to keep him in there. Louis Murphy earned a spot as a starting wide receiver at Florida today. He had a heck of a day, and I am very proud of him. Brandon (James) was terrific on offense, and on defense, Jermaine (Cunningham) played well rushing the quarterback. Lawrence (Marsh) also played well. Another player who earned spot on defense was Joe Haden. His redshirt is over – he’s going to play for us this year. In the kicking battle, we will have nice competition there. I am really proud of the leg strength that both of our kickers showed today. Both (Joey Ijjas and Jonathan Phillips) can hit a 60-yarder – even though the consistency isn’t there yet – and they are both trying really hard. I don’t know yet who will be our kicker next year” said Coach Meyer.
Hopefully, we will see the Gators hoisting another BCS National Championship trophy next year on January 7 in New Orleans.
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