It turned out the national media analysts were right, there was a team in Glendale that had no business playing for the national title. The Ohio State Buckeyes were dominated in every way imaginable as the Florida Gators claimed the second National Championship in school history.
It started in the trenches where Florida’s offensive line was so effective that Buckeyes All-American defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock is likely to appear on milk cartons in Columbus next week. The Florida defensive front could not have played better, stuffing the run with Joe Cohen, Steven Harris and Ray McDonald and abusing Troy Smith with defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey. Smith ended up passing for 35 more yards than I did and his total offense of SIX defies description.
Chris Leak’s Greatest Night
It wasn’t a spectacular night statistically, but Chris Leak had the best night of his college career in Glendale. The Gator senior ended his career playing a near perfect game in directing a Florida offense that scored touchdowns on its first three possessions. Leak ended up passing for 214 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But more than that, he made great decisions time and time again including several incomplete passes that protected possession of the football.
The first drive of the night might have been the key to the entire evening. After the Gators surrendered a touchdown on the opening kickoff, Leak, taking advantage of great field possession coolly led the Gators to an answering score in a matter of moments. After the Florida defense posted the first of what would be many three-and-outs, Leak got the Gators into the end zone five plays later and the Orange and Blue never looked back.
Leak was named the offensive MVP of the ballgame and deservedly so. But to me, it wasn’t so much the plays he made as the tremendous leadership and poise he showed for sixty minutes.
Buckeyes Had to Play from Behind
When I posted my six pack of keys for this game the first thing on the list was to make Ohio State play from behind. The Buckeyes had never trailed by more than seven points all season long, and that had only occurred once. When DeShawn Wynn barreled in from two yards out on the first play of the second quarter, the Buckeyes were down 14 points. They responded well with a quick score, but it was there only offensive score of the night. Ohio State ended up having just one possession with a chance to tie the score the rest of the way.
It was such a complete domination that even much maligned kicker Chris Hetland came through in a big way. Hetland nailed a 42 yard field goal with six minutes to go in the first half to return Florida to a double-digit lead at 24-14. Four minutes later after a bizarre fourth down gamble by Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel failed Hetland connected again. The next offensive play for Ohio State resulted in a sack of Smith by Jarvis Moss that set up another score and the Gators had an unthinkable 34-14 lead at halftime.
There’s no question Ohio State was severely hampered by the foot injury to star receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. But there’s also no argument that Ginn, as talented as he is, is not a 27-point difference maker.
As everyone is well aware, no school had EVER held both the football and men’s basketball national titles at the same time. In fact, no school had ever won both in a time span shorter than eight years.
Urban Meyer is now 22-and-4 in just two years, the best two-year record in UF history. Like his counterpart Jim Tressel, Meyer wins the national title in his second season on the job. The ’06 Gators end up the first Florida team to ever win 13 games in a season.
Chris Leak ends his UF career with 35 wins as a starter and there will be no asterisks, no ands ifs or buts. Leak has earned a permanent place in Gator lore as one of two quarterbacks to lead Florida to a national championship.
It was an amazing night for a team that needed a blocked field goal on the final play to hold off South Carolina. It was an amazing night for a team that barely held off Vanderbilt and had to score late to outlast Florida State.
It was an amazing night.