Florida defeats OSU for BSC national title

For more than a month, the Florida Gators stewed in silence.

Asked about Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, they heaped on the praise. Asked about No. 1 Ohio State, they poured on the compliments.

When they got on the field Monday night, the Gators showed how they really felt.

Second-ranked Florida turned out to be way too good for the Buckeyes, embarrassing them 41-14 to run away with college football’s national championship.

“Honestly, we’ve played a lot better teams than them,” Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss said. “I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them.”

Chris Leak and Tim Tebow showed off coach Urban Meyer’s twin quarterback system to perfection as the Gators became the first Division I school to hold national titles in football and basketball at the same time.

Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, but then it quickly fell apart for the Buckeyes. Ginn hurt his foot in the TD celebration and hobbled off after Ohio State’s first offensive play.

By the time he returned for the second half on crutches, the Gators’ speed, strategy and style were too much and they led 34-14.

Meyer was certain his team was among the best, even though many questioned whether Florida belonged in the BCS championship game. The coach urged his Gators not to take the bait.

Ginn and Ohio State started out like the one-touchdown favorites they were, but only for an instant.

“We scored on the first play of the game and from that point on really couldn’t keep the pressure where we needed it to be,” Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said.

Leak, maligned for never winning the big one, completed 25 of 36 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. The Rambo-like Tebow threw for one TD and powered into the end zone for another.

Smith, meanwhile, joined a long list of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks — Jason White, Eric Crouch and Gino Torretta, among them — to fall apart in bowl games. He was just 4-of-14 for 35 yards with one interception, sacked him five times and held him to minus-29 yards on 10 runs.

Defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Moss made it a miserable night for Smith. Linebacker Earl Everett got into the act, too, running down Smith on one play despite missing his helmet.

It was the second national title for Florida, adding to the one Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel brought home in 1996 under coach Steve Spurrier with a 52-20 romp over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

The trophy will make a perfect bookend for the one the basketball Gators won by beating UCLA for the national championship in Indianapolis last spring.

Tressel’s team, meanwhile, looked as if it belonged at the Holiday Bowl, because it took this night off. Given 51 days to prepare, the Buckeyes were confused from the get-go once Florida got the ball.

In the first football matchup between these schools — they’ve both played the sport for 100-plus years — the Gators emphatically stopped Ohio State’s 19-game winning streak.

Leak gladly took advantage of the confusion, picking wide-open receivers at will and hitting his first nine passes. Criticized most of his career for a lack of fire, the guy with the soft, green eyes seemed real comfortable.

By the end, the numbers were numbing. Florida outgained the Buckeyes 370 yards to 82, led in first downs 21-8 and time of possession 40:48 to 19:12.

“They earned the national championship, no doubt about it,” Tressel said.