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January 9, 2007

Gator defense gets its point across


No. 1 Ohio State
No. 2 Florida

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Ohio State:

GLENDALE, Ariz. -Florida's Jarvis Moss beat Alex Boone with a speed rush, slapped the ball away from Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and watched teammate Derrick Harvey scoop it up for a decisive turnover in the second quarter.

Then Moss noticed something else.

"He was trying to keep a smile on his face, but I could tell he was rattled," Moss said of Smith. "We got to him and we got to him early. I didn't see any more smiling after that."

The Gators enjoyed their best defensive performance of the season, harassing Smith, stuffing the run and blanketing receivers in a 41-14 drubbing of the Buckeyes in the Bowl Championship Series title game Monday night.

"They're definitely overrated," cornerback Ryan Smith said. "Their offensive line can't even touch our defensive line. They had no answer for our speed."

Especially not for Harvey and Moss. They set the tone.

Harvey sacked Smith on the Ohio State's third offensive play and forced a punt. He got another one on the next series.

The third-year sophomore finished with three sacks and the fumble recovery and was named the game's most valuable defensive player. Moss was nearly as good, getting two sacks and causing the fumble.

"You can't say much about Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey," safety Tony Joiner said. "They're freaks. We don't think there's anybody in the nation that can block them."

Certainly not Ohio State.

The Gators may have needed to win that matchup more than any other, especially after coach Urban Meyer said his biggest concern was his secondary being able to cover Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez.

Joiner was still recovering from an ankle injury, fellow safety Reggie Nelson was still grieving from the recent death of his mother, and cornerbacks Ryan Smith and Reggie Lewis were trying to bounce back from sub-par performances against Florida State and Arkansas.

As it turned out, the secondary didn't need to cover for very long - thanks mostly to Harvey and Moss.

Smith "was rattled, running for his life," Harvey said. "That's what good 'D' made him do."

Smith finished 4-of-14 for 35 yards with an interception. He also ran 10 times for minus-29 yards, a stat that includes the sacks. Antonio Pittman gained 62 yards on 10 rushes. Ted Ginn Jr. left the game with a foot injury after scoring on the opening kickoff.

More impressive, the Gators allowed 82 total yards.

The turning point came on consecutive drives in the second quarter. The defense stuffed Smith on a quarterback keeper on third-and-1 at the Ohio State 29-yard line, then stopped Chris Wells on fourth down. It led to Chris Hetland's second field goal and a 27-14 lead.

Then on the ensuing possession, Moss beat his man and caused the huge fumble at the 5-yard line.

Tim Tebow connected with Andre Caldwell three plays later, making it 34-14.

"We've been the underdog all year," linebacker Brandon Siler said. "Nobody wants to give us credit. Nobody wants to give us respect. You have to look now. We're national champions."

For more coverage of the BCS Championship Game, check out GatorBait.net and BuckeyeGrove.com.

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