Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Florida Gators, 2006-2007 SEC and National Champions!

It's been over a week since the Florida Gators, my alma mater, won the National Championship. I'm going to repeat it since it sounds so good. The Florida Gators are the National Champions of college football.

Leading up to the game on January 8th against Ohio State, I heard a number of reasons why the Gators weren't going to win. The Buckeyes had a Heisman trophy winner at quarterback. They had steamrolled just about every opponent they had played, including two teams that had been ranked #2 when they faced them. Jim Tressel was the ultimate big game coach. A number of fans, writers and analysts felt that Florida didn't even belong in the BCS Title game. They thought that a Michigan versus Ohio State rematch would be a far more competitive game. They were probably right, though it wasn't because of Florida's performance.


If you would have told even diehard Gator fans that Florida was going to beat Ohio State by the score of 41 to 14, many would have probably considered you full of "wishful thinking". Personally, I felt that Florida was talented enough to play against any team this season. The defense, obviously their strongpoint, had performed well all season, and the offense, which struggled for much of the season, seemed to come together in the SEC Championship Game against Arkansas. One thing that Gator supporters touted was team speed, especially on the defensive side of the ball at all 11 positions. Most Florida fans believed that the Buckeyes had not seen a defense like the one that UF had put on the field for 12 wins. They were right.

4-14, 35yds passing, 0TD's, 1INT, 10 rushes for -29yds, sacked 5 times, 1FUM Lost

That's Heisman winner Troy Smith's gameline. From the start, after the 93 yard Ted Ginn opening kickoff return for a touchdown that surely pushed most of Gator Nation to the egde of cardiac arrest, Troy Smith was constantly pressured. He had trouble getting his feet set, and when he tried to roll out there was almost always a Florida defender in his face. The defensive ends, Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, wreaked havoc, and exposed the difference in speed and agility between themselves and OSU's tackles. Florida's defensive tackles, a rotation of Joe Cohen, Ray McDonald and Steven Harris, were able to consistently push OSU's guards and center backward and collapse the pocket. Together, they held Antonio Pittman to 62 yards, and racked up five sacks. Even the linebackers showcased their speed with Brian Crum, Brandon Siler and Earl Everett flying sideline to sideline, making tackles on anyone who touched the ball. Everett will forever be remembered as the player who tackled Troy Smith after having his helmet ripped off.

Earl Everett and the Florida Gators Were Determined to Win.

As dominant as the defense was, the offense saved their best for last. The Gators had scored 40 points or more just twice during the season, and those had come against the weaker opponents of UCF and division 1-AA Western Carolina. The offense never seemed to fully "click", though it ran fairly smooth against Arkansas en route to a 38-28 victory. However, against a supposedly very tough Ohio State defense the Gators racked up 370 total net yards and scored 41 points. They did so with short and accurate Chris Leak(69.4% completion percentage) passes that allowed the receivers to use their speed to gain yardage. Eventhough Leak's stats weren't eyepopping, he managed the game perfectly and didn't commit any costly errors throughout the four quarters(0INT's, 0FUM, only 1 sack). Six different players caught passes, and six different players had at least one rush attempt. Coach Meyer and his staff got the ball into the hands of their playmakers, and for the first time all season the entire offense fired on all cylinders.

Seeing Chris Leak holding that BCS trophy, and being presented with the Offensive MVP of the biggest game of his "career" at the University of Florida seemed to bring everything full-circle. Now, only he and Florida "wonderboy" Danny Wuerffel can say that they've won National Championships at the University of Florida. It couldn't have happened to a nicer, more deserving kid.

Chris Leak Delievered on His Championship Promise

I've watched two replays of the game so far and have seen countless highlights, but I still can't believe the way in which Florida thoroughly dominated Ohio State. Obviously, they had heard the same disparaging remarks that I had, and were out to show everyone that not only did they belong in the game, but that they were the better of the two teams there.

I'll never forget watching the clock click down to zero, and high-fiving my dad, who is also a graduate of the University of Florida, and hugging my mom, who spent enough time in Gainesville and sent enough money there to be considered a Gator. None of us could really believe what we had just seen, and our adrenaline and excitement was at an all time high. When we finally realized that the Gators now held men's championships in both football and basketball(at the same time), that just fueled our exhiliration.

So, thank you 2006-2007 Florida Gators football team for providing us fans with a season we'll never forget. It was a magical ride, full of ups and downs, and I couldn't have asked for a better ending.

1 comment:

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