GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was deep into the Rout That No One Expected when Florida got to Troy Smith for the fifth and last time. Defensive end Derrick Harvey, in a repeat of the move that had been killing Ohio State's overwhelmed tackles all night, came flying into the backfield on Smith's blind side, grabbing the Heisman Trophy winner and throwing him to the 3-yard line. That's where, while trying to regain his footing, Smith stumbled and fell to the turf.
It was essentially an act of surrender with more than nine minutes left. The quarterback whose name had been embronzed 30 days earlier in New York had been thrown to the desert scrap heap by the baddest defensive line in all of college football.
Smith's stat line was infinitely more stunning than the 41-14 score: 4-of-14 passing for 35 yards, one interception and zero touchdowns. Only two -- two! -- completions per half. Of those numbers, Gators cornerback Ryan Smith said, "I don't believe that right now. Talk about a bad game."
If there was one indisputable fact about Troy Smith in the 51-day buildup to the BCS National Championship Games, it was this: He does not lose the big ones. He scorched Notre Dame in last year's Fiesta Bowl. Knocked off defending champ Texas in September. Beat Michigan -- for the third straight time -- in November.
With the confetti strewn all over the grass at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Buckeyes' undefeated streak over and the total offensive yards battle won by Florida, 370-82, we've become aware of something else about Smith: He had never seen anything like the speed of Florida's defensive line.
Said junior defensive end Jarvis Moss, who had two sacks to go with Harvey's three, and forced a fumble to set up the Gators' last score of the first half: "[Smith] was trying to keep a smile on his face, but I kind of knew all along that he really was rattled."
For what seemed like the first time all season, early in a nightmarish first half of the title game, the nation's most unflappable signal-caller looked flustered. And even though Smith took the blame -- "It's a lack of execution on my part as a quarterback," he said -- it was hardly all his fault. What would you do if you lost your most dangerous receiver, Ted Ginn Jr., to an injury in the first quarter? And if two defensive ends with the size and speed of velociraptors -- the 6-foot-6, 251-pound Moss and the 6-5, 262-pound Harvey -- were scorching your O-line and getting up in your grill on nearly every passing play? "[Smith was] running for his life," said Harvey. "That's what good D made him do." Even the strongest Heisman stiff-arm couldn't deflect that degree of heat.
It would, perhaps, make this story more intriguing if we were to reveal that Florida had concocted a brilliantly innovative defensive game plan during its 34-day layoff before the title game, but the truth is, the Gators didn't. They simply knew all along, from watching film of the Buckeyes' line, that they could blow them away without needing to blitz excessively. "It wasn't a new game plan, I promise you that," said defensive tackle Joe Cohen. "They just weren't used to our speed."
Florida co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said, "All year long, we've been able to get pressure with four men, so we felt like if we got pressure with Moss and Harvey, then we could get to Troy Smith. We didn't want him to get going, and scrambling around and making plays."