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Monday January 8, 2007Football Defeats Ohio State, 41-14, For School's Second National Title

Glendale, AZ

Senior quarterback Chris Leak (Charlotte, N.C.) threw for a touchdown and senior running back DeShawn Wynn (Cincinnati, Ohio) ran for another score to lead the second-ranked University of Florida football team to a 41-14 victory over Ohio State in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, earning the Gators their second-ever national football championship. With the win, Florida became the first school in NCAA Division I history to win capture national titles in football and men’s basketball during the same calendar year, having earned its first title on the hardcourt by defeating UCLA in April.

 

Ohio struck first when Ted Ginn, Jr., returned the game’s opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. The Gators, however, battled back to tie the score at 7-7 when Leak connected with senior wide receiver Dallas Baker (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) for a 14-yard touchdown pass just 4:13 later. Leak completed 5-of-5 passes for 35 yards on the seven-play, 49-yard drive, which was set up by a 33-yard kick return by freshman running back Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) and a subsequent 15-yard facemask penalty against the Buckeyes.

 

The Gators took a lead they would not relinquish at the 5:51 mark of the first quarter when freshman wide receiver Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) took an option pitch from Leak and scampered four yards for his third touchdown of the season. Senior kicker Chris Hetland (Leesburg, Ga.) connected on the point-after attempt to give UF a 14-7 advantage.

 

After senior cornerback Reggie Lewis (Jacksonville, Fla.) intercepted Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith with 2:49 left to play in the opening quarter, Wynn plowed into the endzone from two yards to cap a 10-play 71-yard drive that gave Florida a 21-7 lead. The score was Wynn’s sixth of the season and the 25th of his UF career, moving him into a tie with Buford Long for sixth on the all-time school list.

 

An 18-yard touchdown run by Antonio Pittman cut the Gators’ lead to 21-14 with just over 13 minutes left to play in the first half, but Hetland connected on a 43-yard field goal – his longest of the season – to push Florida’s advantage to 24-14 with six minutes remaining in the second period. UF’s place kicker added a 40-yard field goal with 1:53 on the clock in the first half to increase the Gators’ lead to 27-14.

 

On the first play of Ohio State’s ensuing possession, junior defensive end Jarvis Moss (Denton, Texas) sacked Smith, forcing a fumble that sophomore defensive end Derrick Harvey (Greenbelt, Md.) picked up and returned to the Buckeyes’ five-yard line. On third-and-goal from the OSU one-yard line, freshman quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Tampa, Fla.) for a scoring strike that gave the Gators a 34-14 lead heading into the locker room.

 

Florida outgained the Buckeyes in the total yardage department, 220-65, and outpassed OSU, 151-30, in the first half. Leak finished the opening two quarters 16-of-24 through the air for 150 yards and touchdown, while Tebow led the squad with 23 yards on the ground. The UF defense collected three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception prior to the break, while holding the Buckeyes to just seven first downs in the first half.

 

After the teams dueled to a scoreless third quarter, Tebow put the Gators ahead, 41-14, with a one-yard plunge at the 10:30 mark of the final period. On the play, Tebow tied Jimmy Fisher’s single-season school record for touchdown runs by a quarterback, set in 1979, with eight on the campaign. That touchdown would prove to be the final score of the night, propelling the Gators to the 41-14 win.

 

Leak finished the game 25-of-36 for 212 yards and a score, while Wynn paced the team with 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Harvin hauled in a career-high nine receptions on the night, good for 59 yards, and senior Jemalle Cornelius (Fort Meade, Fla.) chipped in with five catches for 49 yards. Senior linebacker Earl Everett (Webster, Fla.) notched a team-high seven tackles, and Harvey contributed a career-high three sacks, resulting in a loss of 31 total yards for Ohio State.

 

UF’s victory over the Buckeyes improved their mark to 3-1 all-time in BCS bowl games, and stood as their first win over a top-ranked team since defeating Florida State in Gainesville on Nov. 22, 1997. Florida head coach Urban Meyer became just the seventh coach in NCAA history to guide a team to a national championship in his first or second year at a school, bettering his all-time bowl record to 4-0 as a head coach at the same time.

 

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