Gators, Buckeyes are teammates now


Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

HONOLULU — Three Florida Gators were back on the football field Thursday, less than 72 hours after the national championship game.

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The Associated Press

"We're on top of the world. It's the best feeling ever," cornerback Reggie Lewis said.

On Monday night, the Florida players helped the Gators beat Ohio State 41-14 in Glendale, Ariz. The three Gators and four Buckeyes are teammates on the Aina squad for the Hula Bowl on Sunday. And they are getting to know each other real well.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick, backup to Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, spent part of practice taking snaps from Florida center Steve Rissler.

"We'll be able to coexist, I believe. We all fought hard," Zwick said.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, who is heading the Aina team, said the Gators have bragging rights all week.

But Rissler said there hasn't been much jawing between them.

"You don't have to rub it in. We just showed them what Florida is all about," he said. "The game is over. They don't have much to say. They can't say a whole lot."

Lewis said the Gators were motivated by the fact they were big underdogs and no one gave them a chance against the Buckeyes. He said the lopsided win left no doubt which team was No. 1.

"That night, we would've beat any team in the nation," Lewis said.

The Gators say they're enjoying the islands, but they can't wait to get back to Gainesville to continue celebrating.

"I can only imagine what's going on over there," said Lewis, who had nearly 100 voicemails and text messages congratulating him after the game.

Lewis said he's sleep deprived, only getting a couple hours after the championship.

The Gators and Buckeyes also didn't even have time to have their dirty game jerseys laundered. They brought them to Hawaii with the BCS National Championship patch on them.

"It means everything," Ohio State receiver Roy Hall said. "Even though we lost the game, we got to play for the national championship. When I get back home, I going to wash it up real good and frame it."

Hall said the loss hurts because the team worked so hard to get to the game.

"To lose is one thing, but to lose in the fashion we did was kind of disappointing knowing how bad we wanted that game," he said. "They got a ring and we don't. But everybody's good people. ... Someone had to lose that game, it just happened to be us."

The Buckeyes still cannot believe they collapsed in the biggest game of the season.

"It's still kind of a shock when I think about it," Zwick said. "Everything seemed to be going so well and to end your career with a game like that, it's hard to take. But being out he00re in Hawaii takes your mind off it a little bit."

The Hula Bowl also is a bittersweet moment for the Gators. It's their last taste of college football and the final time they'll don Florida helmets.

"I'm going to wear it with pride," Lewis said.

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