This time, the Florida Gators charged into their off-season.
This time, the Gators finished their season in the accepted way.
Florida overwhelmed Iowa in Monday’s Outback Bowl, winning a 30-3 game and hardly breaking a sweat. The Gators intercepted three passes and held Hawkeye quarterback C.B. Beathard to only seven completions on 23 attempts for 55 yards. They also stopped a fourth-and-goal from the one.
A year ago, Florida ended with three straight losses. Had the Gators lost to Iowa, it would have finished the same way after losses to FSU and Alabama. But the Gators rolled to enter their off-season with a victory.
Freshman defensive back Chauncey Gardner intercepted two passes, returning one of them 58 yards for a score, to win MVP honors. Running back Jordan Scarlett ran for 84 yards to lead the rushing attack, and quarterback Austin Appleby threw for 222 yards and two scores after his first two passes of the day were intercepted.
Those interceptions led to a single field goal for Iowa. After that, Florida scored 30 straight points, including three field goals by Eddie Piniero. Mark Thompson turned a short pass from Appleby into an 85-yard touchdown and DeAndre Goosby scored on a six-yard pass.
For Florida, however, it was a familiar way to win. The vaunted Gator defense gave up only 226 total yards to Iowa. They allowed only four third down conversions on 16 plays.
“I’m so proud of them,” said coach Jim McElwain. “It’s well-documeted how beat up we were . We never once all year used that as an excuse in any shape or form.”
The Gators face the challenge of continuing to build their offense – which has ranked No. 111 and No. 116 the last two seasons. Much of this year’s defense will head to the NFL in the off-season, leaving McElwain with his biggest challenge.
“I will tell you that we’ll be tougher along the front next year,” McElwain said. “We’ve got good skill positions, but we have to develop a mindset that we will not be denied.”