How the Florida Gators won their first national championship game
The Florida Gators have a tradition of dominating their conference, which is why the team has the dubious distinction of winning its first national title game in nearly four decades.
The Gators, who are a perfect 6-0 and the second-best team in the country, captured their third title in five years when they defeated Ohio State in a nationally televised championship game at Tampa Bay’s Joe Louis Arena on Sunday night.
Florida’s two-time national champion team won for the first time since 1986.
The Gators won with a 28-point lead with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter and Florida was able to rally to take the lead on a 39-yard touchdown run by Rashard Higgins.
But Florida was unable to get closer than nine points for the rest of the game.
“That’s why we always come out with the same intensity,” coach Jim McElwain said.
“We know what we’re about.
We know how important it is for us to win.
I’m so proud of our guys and the effort they put in, and I know they’re going to continue to put in that effort.”
The Florida Gators had the lead for the majority of the second half and it was 20-3 at halftime.
Florida coach Jim Schottenheimer went for it in the fourth quarter, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the Gators to a 44-14 lead.
The Gator offense had an opportunity to score in the second quarter when Higgins completed a 19-yard pass to Devin Gardner and then another 18-yarder to tight end Jordan Reed.
But the Gators were unable to capitalize on their chances, and the Buckeyes got a big second-half field goal to take a 35-30 lead.
Florida coach Jimbo Fisher, who was asked about the play, said he thought it was good.
“It was a heck of a play, I think,” Fisher said.
On second-and-goal from the Florida 38, the Buckeye offensive line, which had been playing well for most of the day, went to work blocking for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes then took advantage of the Florida turnover to make it 34-27 at halftime, when the Gators punted.
The game was tied at 34 on a third-and.
six at the Florida 46, but Florida’s quarterback, Devin Gardner, was stopped short on a short throw to Reed.
The Florida defense had a chance to tie it up late in the first quarter when defensive end Shaq Lawson was knocked down by an Ohio State linebacker, but he recovered and was able at the Ohio State 35.
Ohio State took a 30-28 lead in the half.
Florida answered with a two-point conversion at the 9:51 mark.
Ohio State then took a 27-23 lead with 10:30 left in the game, when Zach Banner was stopped by a Florida defender on a 4-yard run.
But Gardner then went to the ground and was unable or unwilling to stand.
Fisher was asked after the game if Gardner would play in the Rose Bowl against Alabama, where he is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
“I think that’s going to be a possibility,” Fisher told reporters.
This is not the first year Florida has been in the national title hunt.
In the first three years of the Gators tenure, they won three national championships.
The last time Florida went on a winning streak was in 2011, when they beat Alabama by 13 points in the Peach Bowl.