Posted: Tuesday January 9, 2007 3:36AM; Updated: Tuesday January 9, 2007 1:08PM
Florida's defense dominated Ohio State, holding the Buckeyes to just 82 total yards.
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It seems pretty silly now that we spent all those weeks working ourselves into a tizzy over not only one Ohio State-Michigan game, but also the possibility of a second. That was just so 2006. On the first two Mondays of 2007, the Wolverines (which lost 32-18 to USC in last week's Rose Bowl) and Buckeyes were mercilessly exposed by faster, more athletic opponents.
In the case of Florida, anyone with an ounce of Southern heritage will undoubtedly tell you it was a foregone conclusion.
"That's the SEC," said Gators defensive tackle Joe Cohen. "We have the speed and power."
More speed and power, it turned out, than an opponent that came in with a 19-game winning streak and a season's worth of lopsided victories. From the moment Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey came barrelling in to Heisman winner Troy Smith's backside on Ohio State's opening series, it was clear the Gators were playing on a whole other speed setting.
We'll never know what the score might have been had Buckeyes star Ted Ginn Jr. not gone down with a foot injury in the first quarter. Or just how much that seven-week layoff between games contributed to Ohio State's woes. Or whether the first half would have ended differently had Jim Tressel's decision to go for it on fourth-and-one from his own 29 not backfired so badly.
Unquestionably, those factors contributed to the runaway score. But in a game this lopsided, the end result would have been the same regardless. "When you look at what transpired in the game," said Tressel, "it's not surprising that the score ended up the way it did."
What transpired was that Florida held the Buckeyes' offense -- a unit that came in averaging more than 36 points and nearly 410 yards -- to a mind-boggling 82 yards of total offense and a lone offensive touchdown. Smith, a prolific passer all season, completed just four passes for 35 yards. It wasn't entirely his fault -- Florida's relentless pass rush sacked him five times and forced two turnovers.
Afterward, Gators defensive end Jarvis Moss -- who had two sacks of Smith and forced him to fumble -- spoke with the nonchalance of a guy who'd just spent an evening practicing against the scout team. "No. 74 and No. 75 [Buckeyes tackles Kirk Barton and Alex Boone] -- they don't move well. They're just big. With our athleticism and speed, it was not very tough to beat those guys."
It didn't hurt that Moss and his defensive teammates only had to work for 19:12 of game time.