Several Big Ten teams played bowl games today at around the same time, and nearly every one of them struggled . Ohio State joined that club in their game against the Florida Gators, losing 24-17. The Buckeyes valiantly attempted to stage a comeback in the game down 14 with 3 minutes left, but were unable to secure the onside kick with under a minute left. Braxton Miller showed some impressive passing at the tail end of the game, ending the game 18/23 for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This is the first time since 1897 that Ohio State has had 7 losses in a single season, and the first time since 1946 that the team has lost 4 games in a row. It is the first time since 1988, John Cooper’s first season, that the Buckeyes have suffered a losing season.
The Florida Gators started the game with the football in excellent field position. Drew Basil was unable to keep the ball from going out of bounds at the one yard-line off a bounce on the opening kick. The error gave the ball to the Gators at the 40 yard line, where Florida quickly built a big head of steam running the ball to the left edge. Surprisingly, showing an early aggression that they haven’t been able to find all season, the OSU defense managed to respond quickly and force Florida into a fumble.
Boom Herron started things off for the Buckeyes going the other way with a couple nice runs up the middle. The Bucks were also helped by a Florida late hit on Braxton Miller as he was going out of bounds, eventually allowing the Buckeyes to work it down inside the 40. Unfortunately, the Gator defense stiffened and got a pair of sacks to put OSU in a 3rd and 18. Jim Bollman chose to go conservative and run a QB draw, hedging on the punt and the field position battle.
Field position was not going to be won that easily, however. The Gators quickly put together a second drive with some great running and fortuitous 3rd down conversions. Most impressive was a nice Brantley pass on third and 8 down the middle of the field splitting the OSU zone to a receiver running at full speed. The play helped set up the first score of the game, a Florida touchdown strike from 17 yards out to Thompson.
On the first play of the very next possession Boom Herron dropped the football moments before hitting the ground, giving the Gators their first turnover of the game. Florida, however, promptly returned the favor on a bad snap two plays later, giving Boom Herron another chance to charge up the middle for a 12 yard gain in recompense for the result of his previous run.
Braxton Miller finally completed a pass seconds into the beginning of the second quarter. On what nearly looked like a broken play, Miller tossed a screen pass over the head of a blitzing defender to Jeff Heuerman who charged up the field for 25 yards on the left side. Taking advantage of the confidence Miller was then able to complete a 10 yard pass to the right side on a nice play-action bootleg. The opening up of the passing game finally allowed the OSU running game to make some noise. But it was ultimately the passing game that put the Buckeyes on the board as Miller hit DeVier Posey for a 5 yard touchdown strike that looked nearly impossible to defend against.
It did not take long for Andre Depose and Florida to respond. Taking the kickoff on the one yard line, Demps returned the ball for a touchdown. The 99 yard return was a Gator Bowl record, and made even more unforgivable considering Ohio State’s coverage team failed to touch Demps in any way.
Ohio State responded with Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller on the ground. When the Bucks were forced into a passing down on 3rd and 7, Miller instead ended up picking up the conversion with his feet. The problem had to do with Florida’s secondary playing lights out football and keeping Ohio State’s receivers from finding any open field. If the receivers aren’t getting open, it’s only a matter of time until the defensive line finds its way to the quarterback.
After a three and out for the Gators, the Buckeyes took possession of the ball on the 50 due to a shanked punt from Florida. The Bucks continued to do what was successful, run the football straight up the gut of the Florida defense. Eventually the Gators managed to put a stop to the OSU running game and force Miller to throw on third down. The defensive line, however, clearly knew the snap count allowing the nose tackle to blow past Andrew Norwell up the middle for the sack. Drew Basil dropped in the long field goal, giving Ohio State points off the excellent field position.
The Bucks received the ball to start the half and managed to get the ball moving after a facemask penalty on the first Boom Herron run gave Ohio State a little momentum. It only required Florida a short period of time to flip that momentum completely in their favor. The Gators brought 4 through the line when OSU was finally forced to punt, and succeeded in recovering the block for a touchdown. That made two special teams touchdowns for the Gators on the day to that point.
Neither team was able to do much with the football for the better part of the 3rd quarter, with the exception of the team’s trading fumbles to again give Florida plenty of momentum. The Gators finally began to gain some traction against the OSU defense as the 3rd quarter came to a close. Florida worked their way down to the 5 yard line and faced a 3rd down at the start of the fourth quarter. A nice hit from Etienne Sabino popped the runner’s helmet off and force Florida to go up 14 with a field goal.
The Buckeyes’ offensive struggles continued unabated allowing Florida to play the clock and attempt to just kill time as much as possible. Unfortunately, the OSU defense wasn’t playing a lot better, and the Gators were able to gain as much yardage as they wanted in wearing down the clock. Eventually, the Buckeyes succeeded in getting a stop on 3rd and short after Florida had managed to take six minutes off the clock, leaving Braxton Miller only 7 minutes to try to come back from 14 down.
The game was over when the Buckeyes went three and out inside their own 20 and decided to punt it away with only 4 minutes left. Despite that feeling, the Buckeyes managed to get the ball back with two timeouts and 3 minutes remaining in the game. The Buckeyes immediately attacked the Florida secondary with Miller’s arm and quickly moved the ball down the field. The drive ended with Hall getting a pass in the flat with 10 yards to get into the endzone. Number 7 successfully evaded five Florida defenders to break into the endzone and put the Buckeyes within a score of tying the game.
Florida recovered the onside kick, and were able to finally kill the remaining clock to secure the win.
Braxton Miller ended throwing 18/23 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. John Brantley ended 12/16 for 129 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Boom Herron finished with 12 carries for 77 yards, while DeVier Posey finished with 5 catches for 40 yards a Ohio State’s only touchdown.
The Buckeyes next play Miami (OH) on September 1st, 2012 in the Horseshoe. That will be the first game of the Urban Meyer era.