Florida's speed too much for Ohio State to handle


Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Sun sports writer

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TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For four weeks, it was a predominant theme concerning the BCS National Championship Game.

Was Florida's speed too much for Ohio State? Or is that just Southern prejudice talking?

The Ohio State players, after all, felt they had plenty of speed. They had Teddy Ginn Jr., maybe the fastest player in football.

But early in the first quarter, Ginn was out with a sprained ankle. And after that, it was clear where the speed was located.

"They looked fast on film and they proved to be as fast as they looked on film," said Ohio State offensive lineman Doug Datish.

That was especially and painfully obvious at the corners when Ohio State had the ball. Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey consistently sped around the corners to sack Troy Smith five times and harass him even more.

After saying Friday they felt disrespected because of all of the talk about Florida's speed, the Buckeyes didn't back it up.

"It's not disrespect," said UF receiver Andre Caldwell. "It's the truth. That's the reality of it. We're faster than Ohio State. They didn't want to face the reality of it. But that was the reality."

That speed advantage helped Florida in several different areas. Wide receivers were able to get open, defensive backs were able to stay with Ohio State receivers. That contributed to Chris Leak completing 21 more passes than Heisman winner Troy Smith.

On some plays, the speed mismatch wasn't by region but by Florida putting in the right play. Several times, Ohio State linebacker Jim Laurinaitis was left to cover Florida freshman Percy Harvin.

"All of the formations we threw at them," said receiver Cornelius Ingram, "it had to do something to them."

As Ray McDonald, feeling the moment, walked to the shower, he shouted, "Speed kills. And so does crack."

It's rare that the topic of debate before the game has such a major impact on the game. But it happened in this one. Speed favored Florida.

And the Gators also had one more thing.

Shelley Meyer's good-luck charms.

They were her shorts, worn to every game this year, tie-dyed orange and blue.

"They're 13-1," she said.

And in her pocket she carried two Gator coins and a buckeye, the nut that is a symbol of good luck in Ohio.

"It's a Salt Lake City buckeye," she said. "That's where I got it."

It worked pretty well on Monday night. What didn't? Blocking, tackling, throwing, catching.

And oh that speed.

BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER

Grading Florida

Offense A

· First half: One punt, four touchdowns and 220 yards are all you need to know.

· Second half: Didn't have any turnovers and then put it away in the fourth quarter.

· For the game: Excellent gameplan and play-calling as well as execution for the offense.

BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER

Defense A+

· First half: Troy Smith completed only two passes and the defense came up with two turnovers.

· Second half: Dominant performance as the Buckeyes could not mount anything in the second half.

· For the game: We knew the Gator defense was something special, now the world knows.

BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER

Special teams B

· First half: Hooray for Hetland. The Florida kicker made both field goal tries to negate the opening return for a score.

· Second half: One shanked punt by Eric Wilbur was the only thing to complain about.

· For the game: The kickoff return by Ted Ginn Jr. was really the only flaw for the special teams.

BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER

Overall A++

· The Gators played by far their best game when the most was on the line.

Pat Dooley

BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER

National leaders

Schools with most national championships in the Associated Press college football poll:

Eight

· Notre Dame — 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988.

Seven

· Oklahoma — 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000.

Six

· Alabama — 1961, 1964, 1965, 1978, 1979, 1992.

Five

· Miami — 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001.

· Southern Cal — 1962, 1967, 1972, 2003, 2004.

Four

· Minnesota — 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960.

· Nebraska — 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995.

· Ohio State — 1942, 1954, 1968, 2002.

· Texas — 1963, 1969, 2005.

Two

· Army — 1944, 1945.

· Florida — 1996, 2006.

· Florida State — 1993, 1999.

· Michigan — 1948, 1997.

· Penn State — 1982, 1986.

· Pittsburgh — 1937, 1976.

· Tennessee — 1951, 1998.

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