Urban Meyer's final game as a Gators coach was not perfect, but the Gators had more talent and made more plays in defeating Penn State 37-24 in the Outback Bowl.
Penn State led 24-17 with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, following a sloppy first half on both sides. Florida began their comeback with a Chas Henry 47-yard field goal, one of three Henry hit on Saturday. While Henry did not have an All-American punting day, he gave UF nine points that kept them in the game. Florida would take the lead on a Mike Gillislee touchdown dive, following Brandon Hicks' interception of Penn State's Matt McGloin.
The Gators defense was why Florida won today's game. UF shutdown Penn State in the 4th quarter, leading to another field goal. For the finale, with Penn State driving to a possible winning score, Ahmad Black took his second interception of the game 80 yards to the house for the final margin. Florida forced five turnovers in the game, all interceptions.
The first 40 minutes of the game did not inspire much confidence in Florida being able to shake off the awfulness that was their 2010 offensive output. On their first offensive play, John Brantley threw an interception, as he was 6-13 for 41 yards. If Brantley is hoping for a release from his scholarship, today might have put the final signature on the letter. Trey Burton, who was used sparingly after fumbling on the goal line driving to tie the score at 7-7, had two carries, two catches and one attempted pass. The Jordan Reed Show took center stage instead, as the freshman was 8-13 for 60 yards and had 68 yards on the ground. Omarius Hines also should get some bandwagon jumpers after two badass offensive plays, including the score to tie the game at 7-7. Of course, as is typical of the mighty Steve Addazio, Hines only got four touches in the game.
If I may go off message here, I was more emotional about seeing the final game for Black and Mike Pouncey than Urban Meyer. Black and Pouncey are part of the vaunted Lakeland Dreadnaughts class, football's equivalent of the Oh Fours. Pouncey might not be able to throw a straight snap, but he demonstrated why he is an NFL prospect. Watching him pull 30 yards to make a lead block really is a thing of beauty.
As for Black, where would Florida have been without him this season? He launched himself into bigger men all season, including today when he busted his face breaking up a pass. His second interception today was the perfect ending to a very imperfect season.
Like Meyer, their Florida careers are over, but we will see them soon somewhere else. Starting tomorrow, we should hope to see more of Jordan Reed and Omarius Hines.