All for nothing
Graham's big day wasted as Gators fall
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Florida's normally high-powered aerial attack was reduced to Earnest Graham pounding the ball on the ground.
Graham ran for 136 yards -- all but four of Florida's total rushing yards in the game -- and a touchdown in a 37-20 loss to No. 2 Miami in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
"I just went out and ran hard," Graham said.
While quarterback Rex Grossman struggled for the seventh-ranked Gators, going 18-of-41 with two interceptions, Graham averaged 9.1 yards on his 15 carries and caught four passes for 43 yards.
"Earnest Graham was the lone bright spot," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "He ran hard, we should have given it to him on every play, looking back."
In the fourth quarter, Graham accounted for 50 yards on a 79-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal that pulled Florida within 27-20. On that series he had runs of 10, 11 and 10 yards and caught a pass for 9.
Every yard was hard earned, Graham said.
"I can see why they beat Florida State," Graham said. "They're a very tough team. They know how to grind it out in the trenches. Miami was a little more smash mouth than Florida State."
It was the second big game in a row for Graham, who battled Robert Gillespie all season for the top role at tailback. Graham rushed for 169 yards in the Southeastern Conference championship game, breaking the game's old rushing record of 127 yards by Tennessee's Jamal Lewis.
"He's an underrated back," offensive lineman Kenyatta Walker said. "If we fed him the ball more he'd be a top back in the country."
Graham led Florida in rushing last season with 654 yards. He was second this season with 676 yards on the worst rushing team ever under Spurrier.
Although the Gators averaged 418.7 yards per game in total offense this season, they averaged only 110.5 yards rushing, 10th in the SEC and 91st in the nation.
Graham played in all 12 games this year, but started only three before the Sugar Bowl. He led the Gators with eight rushing touchdowns.
But he wasn't enough to beat Miami.