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Theater of Operations, Florida Vs. Ohio State: Reviewing The Gators' Special Teams

Andre Debose, Most Valuable Player of the Gator Bowl.
Andre Debose, Most Valuable Player of the Gator Bowl.

As I'm sure you know by now, the Florida Gators defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes by the score of 24-17, in the 2012 Gator Bowl. We'll get to the offense and defense tomorrow and Thursday respectively, but for now, we'll let the special teams do the talking. The Gators' special teams units, without question, won the game. Whether it was kickoff return unit, the punt block unit or even the punt return unit, the Gators had by far, the better special teams.

Yes, Caleb Sturgis and Kyle Christy had solid days, but the Gators' special teams dominance was largely due to two players:

  • Andre Debose: Two kickoff returns, 64-yard average, one touchdown.
  • Chris Rainey: One punt return, 31-yard average, one blocked punt.

And yes, the blocked punt by Rainey was returned 14-yards by Graham Stewart for a touchdown. Also on that punt block, if Rainey doesn't get a hand on it, Solomon Patton would have. In fact, it was so close, that Patton was originally given credit for the block. But upon further review, Rainey rightfully was given the credit.

But hey, in close games, it is often special teams (and turnovers) that make the difference. In this case, it was without question special teams. It's also worth mentioning that Andre Debose was named Most Valuable Player of the Gator Bowl. It was very well deserved.

Play No. 1: Andre Debose's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

I'm not saying that this formation had anything to do with the return, but it does appear odd. I mean, I know teams have several formations on kickoff coverage, but to have 40% (not including the kicker) of your men arriving late to the line, is different right?


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Lost in the return, is the catch (yellow square) that Andre Debose makes before he begins his trek up the field.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As Debose (yellow circle) begins to enter the area of attack, the blockers do a great job in sealing off the coverage (yellow squares) of Ohio State. There is only one free Ohio State player (green circle), but he is running at a bad angle.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

In the middle of the play, Debose (yellow circle) still has an unbelievably clear lane to run through. The blocking (yellow squares) continues to be phenomenal.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

When Debose (yellow circle) gets ahead of you, you aren't catching him. There is only one player (green circle) that even has a chance to catch him, but I'd put those odds at about the same as Lauren Conrad showing up on my doorstep tonight with a grilled cheese sandwich.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

I did like that when Debose slowed up the last 20-yards or so, Demps (yellow square) saw an opportunity to get in a shot on the closest Ohio State player. Demps got hit to the ground, but hey, he threw his shoulder into him.

Play No. 2: Chris Rainey's blocked punt:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As stated above, there was some confusion as to who actually blocked the punt. Solomon Patton (top yellow circle) and Chris Rainey (bottom yellow circle) both got there at the exact same time. Rainey, rightfully ended up getting the credit, but I'm pretty sure that if he somehow doesn't get a hand on it, Patton does.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As often happens when the Gators attempt a punt block, they send more players than the opponent has blockers. Rainey (bottom double yellow circle) and Patton (top double yellow circle) are still on the outside of the rush, while the two middle runners, are charged with taking out the blockers. As you can see, there are only three blockers (green circles) and that means that Ohio State is outnumbered. Yeah, that's not a good thing for the Buckeyes.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Right as the ball (red circle) is about to be kicked, you can see that Patton (top yellow circle) and Rainey (bottom yellow circle) are the only two Gators that have managed to get past the blockers. Three blockers take out only two of the four Gators who were attempting to block the kick (yellow square). Now, I'm horrible at math, and I mean horrible, so I don't now how to make that into a percentage or whatever, but it's probably a pretty bad one.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

In case you can't tell, Rainey is the one who is closest to the punter, and Patton is the one diving. But yes, this is the moment in which Rainey blocks the kick.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The ball (red circle) proceeds to go backwards about 15-yards, and at this moment I'm telling myself "If we pick it up, it's a touchdown." Graham Stewart, yes, Graham Stewart (yellow circle) has the best shot at picking up the ball. In case you had forgotten all about Stewart, here is a little reminder.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

At this moment, Stewart (yellow circle) picks up the ball...

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

...and then proceeds to easily trot into the endzone for the touchdown (yellow square).

One of the things that was a constant during the Urban Meyer era was great special teams play. Under head coach Will Muschamp and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin, it appears that there isn't going to be a drop-off in special teams play at all.