Special teams fuel win

Florida Gators wide receiver Andre Debose (4) celebrates after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 in the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on Monday, Jan. 1, 2012 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 2, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE -- Florida senior running back Chris Rainey said it was fitting that the final game of his college career included a blocked punt.

“I love special teams,” Rainey said. “That’s the number one thing I talk about in practice. I want to be on special teams. I want to do everything possible to win games. And that’s what wins games.”

Two touchdowns on special teams carried Florida to a 24-17 win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. The first came on a 99-yard kickoff return from sophomore Andre Debose, which put the Gators up 14-7 in the second quarter. The second came on a 14-yard return by linebacker Graham Stewart on a Rainey blocked punt, which extended UF’s lead to 21-10 in the third quarter.

Rainey broke through the Ohio State line for his Southeastern Conference and UF record sixth career blocked punt.

“I’m just doing my job,” Rainey said.

The punt block was initially credited to Solomon Patton, who also was in on the play. After the game, Rainey predicted that Patton will eventually break his school record.

“He’s still got two more years and it might be up for grabs,” Rainey said.

Debose earned Gator Bowl MVP honors with his 99-yard kickoff return, the longest play in Gator Bowl history. It also was his school-record third career kickoff return for a TD. Debose returned kickoffs for touchdowns last season against LSU and South Carolina.

“It just takes a lot of practice and believing in your blockers and believing in your coach,” Debose said. “Our coach really pushed it into us how important special teams is and I take pride in it, being a specialist and going as hard as I can for the team.”

Florida also got a 17-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis and a game-clinching onside kick recovery by sophomore receiver Stephen Alli.

“Special teams was huge,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “Andre’s kickoff return was blocked really well. (Special teams coach) D.J. Durkin does the best job in the country on special teams. Week in, week out momentum changers, (he puts) our guys in positions to be successful. The blocked put was a great design.”

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