|Braxton Miller, left, and Luke Fickell on the sideline during Ohio State's 24-17 loss to Florida in Monday's Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. (AP)|
Although the Buckeyes (6-7) exceeded Florida in total offense, passing, rushing, first downs and time of possession during Monday's Gator Bowl showdown in Jacksonville, it was two lapses on special teams that prevented the boys in scarlet and gray from avoiding their first seven-loss season since the late 19th century.
The Gators (7-6) used a 99-yard kickoff return and a blocked punt to find pay dirt twice, edging the Buckeyes, 24-17, and averting their first losing season since 1987.
But this story doesn't involve Florida, it's all about the Buckeyes.
As bright as the future appears for Ohio State moving forward with the hiring of new head coach Urban Meyer — who will officially take over the program on Tuesday — Monday's Gator Bowl performance was a dark reminder of the past 12 months for the Buckeyes, one which saw scandal, the ousting of a popular head coach, a bowl ban and massive underachieving.
The Buckeyes looked lax against Florida. They didn't protect the football on offense. They didn't block well up front. They didn't play their assignments on defense. They missed tackles. They possessed zero passion. They were totally going through the motions. They were not prepared.
It shouldn't have come as any surprise, though. That's how they've played all season long.
The sad — or perhaps most disappointing — thing about Monday's game against Florida was that it shouldn't have been played in the first place. The Buckeyes should've self-imposed a bowl ban when they had the chance. They should have made a statement to the NCAA that they didn't take their repeated violations lightly.
Instead, they used their prestigious name to cash in on those big January bowl game dollars. And for what? So they could have their first losing season since 1988? So they could embarrass themselves on national television by running the same tired offense they have all season?
So they could allow players like DeVier Posey, Dan Herron and Mike Adams — those who put Ohio State in the situation they currently reside — one last day of fun in the sun, while the innocent serve their sentences next season?
This past year for the Buckeyes has been poorly managed as an institution, poorly coached on the sideline and poorly performed on the field.
It can all be summed up in just one word: disappointing.