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Gators couldn't have scripted a better ending

SprintPhoto_bhbcfd The perfect player made the perfect play to give Urban Meyer a perfect ending to his career at UF.

Ahmad Black's 80-yard interception return for touchdown sealed the Gators' 37-24 win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl, earning him the MVP and stopping a promising Nittany Lions' drive with a minute left in the game.

Black was the best player on this team all season, and I'm happy to see his career end on this note. He came to UF as an undersized safety, an add-on to a recruiting class that included high school teammates Chris Rainey, John Brown and Mike and Maurkice Pouncey.

Black said safeties coach Chuck Heater even told him as much during the team's senior tackle ceremony this week, when he joked that the Gators only took Black to get the others.

Four years later, he's the best of the bunch in my book (Maurkice certainly has a claim there too). Black made a laundry list of huge plays in his career, most notably that crazy pick against Oklahoma in the BCS Championship.

He led the team in tackles this year and had two picks Saturday. He returned the first one 49 yards to the 15-yard line in the first quarter, putting UF's offense in a situation where it was a huge challenge to not score. Never fear, they prevailed with a fumble.

Meyer and Black deserved to go out winners, and they both wanted the win for someone else. Meyer gave the game ball to Ian Lockwood, a senior at Navarre High (pictured in orange beanie). He met Lockwood while he was receiving treatment for brain cancer in Gainesville, an illness that cut short his high school football career. Navarre had its best year in school history this season, going 11-2 while using Lockwood for inspiration.

The Gators did the same thing, partly playing this game for Lockwood. Black hugged him and gave him the game ball at a postgame press conference, a scene that had Lockwood choking back tears.

“I asked these guys to do whatever we could to get a game ball to Ian Lockwood," Meyer said. That meant we had to go four quarters as hard as possible and find a way to get that ball and brighten someone’s day.”

This game was very, very sloppy and mostly poorly played, but that's not how I'll remember it. I'll remember watching Black go streaking down the sideline after jumping a drag route. And I'll remember the scene on the field afterward, watching Meyer celebrate with his family (he either wasn't emotional or did a great job hiding it) after I snuck into the background of his postgame interview to get on TV looking like a super creepy stalker.

Sure, I'll also remember all the times Florida played LIKE THIS, but Black at least put a positive spin on the end of the year. Winning the Outback Bowl against a mediocre Penn State team doesn't mean much, especially not for a team that started the year with BCS hopes, but take a step back and look at what this game meant for the three people on the right side of that photo, and suddenly things change.

Meyer also made the point that the win makes life a lot easier for Will Muschamp, as a team coming off a win is much different in the offseason from one that ends with a loss. Now, it's all about Muschamp's staff coming together, and I expect they'll have all that set in the next few days.

What'd you think of the game? Does this make up for any of the sorrow from the rest of the year?


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Nice write up Mike. The game was exactly what I expected: the Gator offense was as inept and pathetic as it was in the season opener against Miami of Ohio. They really have shown zero improvement. "THREE-BOW" will go down as a colossal failure. I've been defending Brantley all year, since they never allow him to stay for a few drives, but the guy blows it. That first pass, the interception, was horrendous. Against FSU, he began the game by missing a screen pass to Rainey. I think it's fair to say Brantley is a bust. Maybe next year's pro-style offense will see him excel, but I have big time doubts. Reed is another bust. Fans sweat him because he moves the ball a bit, but not by much. Reed can't throw. He might complete a pass or two, but he's generally totally inaccurate. They need to just convert him to fullback, or keep him at Tight End. Trey Burton is a good receiver coming out of the back field, and maybe as occasional half-back, but he's no solution either. The opportunity is there for a real QB (i.e. Jeff Driskle) to come in and take the reigns. How bad was this offense? Fumbling on the goal line after an interception puts you on the 15, is one answer. Another answer is, punting after Chris Rainey has a 51 yard run. That is BAD. Good riddance to Steve Addazio. This offense SUCKS! Anyhow, as always, our defense and special teams bailed us out. Ahmad Black is a beast and he's the MVP for the season. Still, how many defensive players dropped interceptions right in their hands (Moses Jenkins, Jon Bostic, etc.)? Ugly win, but at least it's a W and Meyer can "go out a winner". This season was a disgrace, and not because of the wins and losses, but because of the comedic incompetence of the offense. I'm glad it's over and I'm ready for Muschamp, Weiss, and the "pro-style offense".


Hopefully we'll be using Gillislie and Brown more in 2011. There were a lot of freshman playing in this bowl, hopefully they'll do some growing up in the offseason.

One thing's for sure, Shariff Floyd is going to be an absolute beast, and I can't wait to see what happens when Muschamp starts coaching him.

Yawns...the Hurricanes lost their bowl game. What is new?

Congrats to all the Fla teams that won their bowl games, UF, FSU, FIU, UCF, USF. How many other states have a 5-1 bowl record?

congrats also to Miam.....errr...nevermind

Weis is ROUNDING the staff into shape. Muschump, Weis equal two men way over their head and Fooley should not have panicked and hired a guy with no HC experience and was about to get fired with that awful display of defense Texas showed with great players.

Mikey, you keep deleting I will keep posting.

Wheres all the 'we reload, we dont rebuild' GAtor fan talk.
NO QB's 2 speak of.
NO RB's 2 speak of.
NO WR's 2 speak of.
NO OL 2 speak of.
NO DL 2 speak of.
NO LB's 2 speak of.
NO DB's 2 speak of.
With all the top recruiting classes u all get every yr, shouldnt there be a stud at every position instead of openings everywhere..
GAtor fan, living off of the past, Teabag & recruiting services..

Keen observation by Pat Forde over on ESPN

Winner: The state of Florida. Its schools went 5-1, including the first-ever bowl victories for Central Florida (over Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl) and Florida International (over Toledo in the Little Caesar's Bowl). Florida State won its 10th game for the first time since 2003. South Florida made it a successful transition year under Skip Holtz by beating Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Florida sent Urban Meyer out on a winning note. Just don't ask about Miami.

Just checked the Super creepy stalker pic Mike. Hilarious. You wearing pants in that pic?

Driskel = Brantley

But you will say he is the best QB in the country....until he isn't. I'm sure Saban is terrified.

At least he can handoff to that stable of running backs...oh, wait... you gots none.

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