AT GLENDALE, ARIZ.
BOWLING THEM OVER
Ohio State drew first blood when Ted Ginn Jr. ran back the opening kickoff for a TD, but after that it was all Florida. The Buckeyes had no answer for the speed and superbly balanced attack of the Gators, as Chris Leak completed 25 of 36 for 213 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
WITH HIS FLORIDA TEAMMATES REJOICING BELOW HIM, CHRIS LEAK MOUNTED THE STAGE and acknowledged the blue-and-orange-clad mob chanting beyond the south end zone. In short order he would accept the trophy presented to the MVP of the BCS championship game. The 41?14 thumping of Ohio State had finally made an honest man of Leak, who as a cocksure high school senior in January 2003 stood before television cameras vowing his allegiance to Florida and predicting a kind of Gator Golden Age of multiple SEC and national championships. Through three seasons, exactly none of this had come to pass.
Even though Leak had thrown for 11,000 yards and 87 touchdowns entering the BCS game on Jan. 8, he had never fully captured the heart of Gator Nation. But then he took the field in the biggest game of his life and put on a show that sent a message to a national TV audience at the expense of his Buckeyes counterpart, a dazed and confused Troy Smith: This is how it's done.
Leak's performance—25 of 36 for 213 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions—was a masterpiece of equitable distribution. He completed passes to six receivers; handed off, pitched or otherwise dispatched the ball to four rushers; and kept the Buckeyes' defense off-balance all night.
More stunning than Ohio State's failure to stop (or even slow) Florida was the woeful showing by Smith, who completed four of 14 passes for 35 yards, with an interception and a fumble. He might as well have had his 25-pound Heisman Trophy tucked under his jersey for all the success he had escaping Gators defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss, who combined for five sacks.