Photo courtesy of Florida Athletics
NCAA FOOTBALL BOWLS PAGE
(Sports Network) - Andre Debose set a Gator Bowl record with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Florida hung on to beat Ohio State, 24-17, on Monday.
Debose's return up the left sideline in the second quarter gave Florida the lead for good and the Gators scored another special teams touchdown after Chris Rainey blocked a punt in the third quarter.
John Brantley completed 12-of-16 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown for Florida (7-6) and Rainey rushed 16 times for 71 yards. Linebacker Graham Stewart scored a 14-yard touchdown after Rainey's block.
Braxton Miller threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-23 passing for Ohio State (6-7) and Dan Herron carried the ball 12 times for 82 yards.
The game had been dubbed by some as the Urban Meyer Bowl, named after the former Florida and incoming Ohio State head coach.
While Meyer didn't coach in the game, he certainly had an effect on it after recruiting much of the current Florida roster before resigning last January.
Meyer has already begun working at Ohio State, although the school let Luke Fickell finish his final game as interim head coach.
The Gators, who captured two national championships under Meyer, won their first bowl game under new head coach Will Muschamp, bouncing back from a 2-6 record in their last eight games of the regular season.
Ohio State lost its last four games of the season. The Buckeyes won't have another chance to play in a bowl game until at least 2013 after the NCAA handed down a one-year postseason ban for the memorabilia scandal that cost former head coach Jim Tressel his job.
Florida overcame two Brantley fumbles in the first half and his interception in the second. The first fumble came on the opening drive of the game after Florida had good field position on an out-of-bounds kickoff.
Ohio State recovered, but punted and Brantley led the Gators downfield for a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson between two defenders in the end zone.
Herron fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Brantley gave the ball back with his second fumble of the game two plays later.
The Buckeyes then tied the game at 7-7 on Miller's five-yard throw to DeVier Posey -- just the quarterback's third pass of the game to that point.
As quickly as the game was tied, however, Florida went back on top when Debose cut to the left sideline and scored untouched on a 99-yard kickoff return to make it 14-7 Florida.
Ohio State pulled within 14-10 on Drew Basil's 37-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
On the first possession of the second half, and with the two nearest Ohio State blockers keyed in on one of his teammates, Rainey broke through to block Ben Buchanan's punt. Stewart corralled the ball on the left side of the field and rumbled 14 yards to make it 21-10.
Later in the third quarter, the teams exchanged turnovers again. Brantley was intercepted by Tyler Moeller on a tipped pass, but Posey fumbled three plays into Ohio State's ensuing possession.
Florida turned it into an 24-10 lead on Caleb Sturgis' 17-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Jordan Hall slipped out of four tackles on an 11-yard touchdown catch that drew Ohio State within 24-17 with under a minute to play, but an onside kick attempt failed.