I introduced the Golden Bowl after the semifinals as Golden Bowl II, but given my shifts in priorities and the new way we got here, not to mention I’m not waiting a year to present the results, I think Golden Bowl I might be more appropriate… prepare for a lot of scrolling…
Golden Bowl I: #9 USC v. #2 Florida
USC gets the ball off the opening kickoff and takes it to the 31. The instant the teams line up at the line of scrimmage, Florida gives them the gift of an encroachment penalty. Stafon Johnson gets nailed behind the line. Mark Sanchez tosses it forward to Patrick Turner who picks up 5, and C.J. Gable picks up 14 yards for the first down. Damian Williams can’t quite bring in the pass from Sanchez, but Gable picks up another first down to the 36. Johnson takes it to the 24 for another first down. Gable manages to move the pile for three yards, then Johnson breaks through for 15 to the 6. Joe McKnight’s first carry picks up two yards, one of which Gable loses. Sanchez takes the ball and can’t find anyone open, ending up tackled at the line, forcing a chip-shot field goal attempt. The kick is good and USC takes the early lead.
The ensuing kickoff is short, caught at the 10, and returned to the 30. Chris Rainey can only get a short gain on his first carry, but picks up a first down on his second. Percy Harvin picks up the ball from there and takes it 9 yards, and Jeffery Demps gets more than enough to pick up the next first down to the 48. But Rainey gets stuffed, Tim Tebow just barely overthrows his receiver, and Tebow himself gets stuffed, and Florida is forced to punt. (Incidentially, the amazing thing about Florida’s run in this tournament is that I don’t think Whatifsports has much of a concept of the running quarterback, given Tebow’s performance!) USC seems to have the early edge, but the Gator punt pins them on the 14.
Gable runs for a little, then Johnson drops the pass from Sanchez. Sanchez has better luck with Turner and Vidal Hazleton, and a couple of 15-or-so yard gains move the Trojans to their own 48. Another Sanchez throw picks up another five from there, but Johnson gets stuffed for a short gain and a defender deflects the pass on third down. USC’s punter returns the favor done him by the Gator punter, pinning the Gators at the same spot.
But after Rainey gets stuffed at the line, Tebow hands the ball off to Demps… and he breaks into the open field! No one can catch him! 40, 30, 20, 10… Touchdown! Just like that the Gators take the lead! USC takes the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone and to the 29, but Johnson gets stuffed, Brandon Antwine records the first sack of the day, and on third-and-15 Sanchez’s pass gets broken up. The instant Florida takes the field, it’s clear the momentum has shifted: Demps picks up a yard on a draw, Harvin runs for the marker and just gets it on the measurement, then Rainey gets stuffed and Harvin gets more yardage off the draw, leaving Florida at third and 3 as the quarter ends.
Tebow gets stuffed at the line, but the ball is on the USC 34 and Urban Meyer decides to go for it on 4th down. Emmanuel Moody, however, can only get a yard. No problem for the Gator defense: the Trojans botch a screen on first down, which falls incomplete, and attempts by Johnson and Sanchez to take it further only complete another three-and-out. Florida manages to return the punt almost to midfield.
There, however, is where it ends: Tebow gets stuffed behind the line, Demps is scarsely better, and Harvin gets the pitch but can’t take it all the way to the marker. Still, USC is pinned at the 14 again. The toss to Anthony McCoy picks up six yards, and Gable takes the ball for another six and a first down. McKnight gets the ball again but this time loses significant yardage, but Turner catches the pass from Sanchez and makes up for it. Johnson plucks the ball from the air on third down and stretches it out to the 46 for a 16-yard first down. Johnson gets the ball running on the next play and takes it a decent distance again, then picks up the first down through the air again to the Florida 37. Johnson puts up more good yardage on the run, but when Sanchez attempts to throw again, Will Hill picks him off, wasting the drive.
Rainey takes the ball 14 yards, but three Moody runs pick up a total of five yards and Florida is forced to punt. Sanchez hands it off to Johnson again, then sees his pass batted down and finally hands it off to Gable, but gets nowhere, and the ensuing punt gets returned into USC territory. Rainey and Demps have some short runs before Tebow throws to Deonte Thompson, who manages to weave past defenders to the 29. Moody gets a short gain, Harvin a short loss, and Tebow throws it again, this time short of the marker – and his only completed pass of the day to someone not named Deonte Thompson. Jonathan Phillips comes in for a 39-yard field goal attempt, and the kick sails through the uprights to put Florida up by 7 with less than two minutes left in the half.
Johnson picks up a first down, but USC isn’t able to take advantage of the clock stoppage and calls timeout. Gable gets halfway to the next marker on a draw, then Sanchez sees another pass broken up and gets sacked on the next play. Florida calls timeout before the punt; after the punt, Tebow picks up a little, then throws to Thompson again to put the Gators just short of the first down. Moody then gets the ball again for a short gain, and the half ends. USC 3, Florida 10, but most observers think the Florida defense has USC bottled up, though they could still break out during the second half.
Florida takes the second-half kickoff to the 29. Kestahn Moore picks up five yards, and Rainey loses one before Florida gets flagged for a false start on third down. Moore is pinned behind the line and the Gators punt. USC doesn’t do much better; McKnight is stuffed at the line, Gable gets nailed for a loss, and Sanchez flips it up to Damian Williams, who makes it back to the original line of scrimmage. Florida, though, gets a great punt return, with USC only getting the stop at the 2. Rainey and Demps don’t get anywhere with a pair of runs, but Harvin finally pushes into the end zone. Florida takes a 17-3 lead.
USC takes the kickoff to the 26, but after Johnson takes it past the 30, two McKnight runs prove that the master of the previous rounds is not his normal self today, bottled up by the fantastic Gator defense. Florida gets the ball back at the 43, but runs by Moody, Rainey, and Moore only bring the ball to midfield, and they punt it back.
McKnight gets a short gain on a draw, then has his biggest play so far, going for 14 yards and a first down on a pass from Sanchez. Johnson gets a big gain for a first down on a draw, while Gable is less successful, but Sanchez connects with Williams for a big play to the Gator 25. But that’s it: McKnight gets nailed for a big loss, and Brandon Spikes picks off Sanchez for the Gators’ second interception.
Moore quickly breaks off a big run into Trojan territory, and now the Gators are threatening to score. Three straight Tebow running attempts go nowhere, however, the last one resulting in a substantial loss. This time, the loss, moving them back to the 38, is sufficient to bring in the punt unit, which ends up putting the ball on the 14. McKnight seems to continue his resurgence with runs of 4 and 11 yards – hardly the numbers he was putting up against Utah, Oklahoma and Penn State, but certainly decent – and Sanchez throws to McCoy to take the ball to the USC 46 for another first down. Johnson gets the ball and runs all the way to the sidelines for a short gain. The quarter ends on that note.
If Sanchez can keep from getting intercepted USC can still make a game out of it. Gable passes midfield and McKnight finds the first down marker before getting the pass from Sanchez. Running the ball, however, gets nowhere. Two Sanchez passes end up getting tackled for losses, stuffing the drive and forcing another punt. Demps gets a short gain on a draw, with Rainey picking up a first down on another one. Demps and Moody make further contributions, gaining a total of 5, and Tebow can’t carry it further, forcing another punt.
USC starts on their own 27. Johnson takes it to the 30 but a false-start penalty wipes it out. Two Sanchez scrambles go nowhere and USC punts, with some wondering if Pete Carroll should go for it, especially when Florida gets good field position. 8:06 left. Harvin is stuffed on first down, but Moore gets a good run on a draw, and one last pass from Tebow to Thompson is good for a first down and takes it to the 40. Tebow takes it himself on a draw, then hands it off to Rainey and Harvin, taking the ball to the 31, just short of the marker. Phillips comes in to try a 48 yard field goal attempt, which manages to make it through the uprights. Now Florida has a 17-point lead, three scores, with 5:10 left. If USC is going to come back, now is the time.
USC takes the kickoff to the 29, but lets the play clock run out before running their first play. Sanchez overthrows Williams but manages to get the ball to Turner for 18 yards, despite Florida pass interference. Pete Carroll calls timeout with 4:46 to play. Sanchez hits Williams and makes it into Florida territory and marginal field goal range. Sanchez takes it himself and runs around out of bounds, then hits McCoy to make it to the 19. 4:07 left. Then the Gator secondary locks down. Sanchez is forced to tuck it in and run for a yard, then gets the pass off and sees it batted down. On third down Sanchez overthrows Johnson. Even though they only need two touchdowns and a field goal, Carroll elects to go for it on fourth down rather than take the points, and Sanchez overthrows McCoy. 3:26 left.
Short gains by Moody and Demps bracket a 14-yard run by Rainey. Tebow just barely overthrows Harvin on second down, stopping the clock, and Demps only gains four on third-and-nine, so USC gets the ball back. But the drive has achieved its aim: over two minutes were run off the clock, and 1:14 now remains with the Trojans on the 20.
Sanchez overthrows his first pass again, and this time takes it in and runs for yardage… only to see one of his linemen flagged for holding. Sanchez throws another incompletion, and another holding call is declined this time to set up third down. This time Sanchez comes through, hitting Williams for a monster gain to the 35, but then he overthrows McCoy, botches another screen, and overthrows another receiver. Oddly, on fourth down Sanchez hands it off to Johnson, who gets out of bounds… after gaining three yards. Florida gets the ball back with 24 seconds left, and one Tim Tebow knee later, Florida is your Golden Bowl Champion, completing the Grand Slam on Da Blog. Demps is named the Golden Bowl MVP, mostly because of his great touchdown run, though also because he managed to be Florida’s leading rusher, 100 yards, despite fewer carries than Rainey (Demps had 10; Rainey picked up 61 on 13).
Final score: USC 3, Florida 20