Outback Bowl, Florida vs. Penn State: Gators Send Urban Meyer Out A 37-24 Winner

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Outback Bowl, Florida Vs. Penn State: Urban Meyer Leaves A Victor In A 37-24 Victory Over Penn State

Urban Meyer started his coaching career at Bowling Green. When he was a young coach there preparing for his first season, his wife would say in interviews later, he would wonder out loud about the possibility of never winning a game.

That thought might have been on his mind in this game, a sloppy, often shambolic matchup of a Florida team who spent large stretches of the season seemingly forgetting how to play the game of football in all three phases of the game. Florida very nearly lost this game several times. They botched redzone possessions, coughing up a fumble and settling for field goals when they should have had touchdowns. They gave up loads of yardage to Penn State. At times, they looked like a team doomed to send Meyer out a loser in his final game.

Two quirks of fate intervened. Florida somehow scraped together some offense with Jordan Reed at quarterback, and Matt McGloin threw a grand total of five interceptions into the teeth of the Florida defense, including a the game-sealing late pick to Ahmad Black, whose second INT of the day went all the way back to take the game out of reach at 37-24.

It’s a full circle kind of moment for Meyer. He leaves not at the helm of a championship juggernaut, but grateful for a skin-of-the-teeth victory by a team stuck somewhere on the learning curve between novice and experience. Doing it against Joe Paterno is probably bittersweet, as well, but while we’re at it remember the final irony: one of these coaches wants to come back next year, and it’s not the guy born during the Coolidge administration.

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Outback Bowl, Florida Vs. Penn State: Penn State Leads 17-14 At The Half

It could have been worse. A short punt gave Penn State the ball in Florida’s half of the field, and some nifty matriculation down the field gave Penn State a goal-to-go situation. Florida’s defense tightened up, however, and a third down fade pattern went incomplete and forced Penn State to kick three when they could have had seven.

Penn State should be thrilled with their performance in the first half. They abetted Florida in their offensive ineptitude, outgained Florida by a margin of 202-85 in total offensive yardage, and holds a lead over a team with a decided emotional advantage in this game thanks to Urban Meyer’s retirement.

They should be frustrated, though, since Penn State could and should be up 21-7 instead of 17-14. They gave Florida free points on the blocked punt, turned the ball over twice with interceptions, and gave up an easy TD when the Penn State defense lost contain in the redzone.

It’s still a nice result for Penn State, but without mistakes it could have been much more for the Nittany Lions.

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Outback Bowl, Florida Vs. Penn State: All Tied Up In Tampa In The Second Quarter

Florida has tied up the Outback bowl with a 16 yard rushing TD by Florida wide receiver Omarius Hines. The first truly productive drive of the day for Florida came off a trademark redzone play for Urban Meyer’s least potent offensive attacks. Remember, if it’s a reverse, it means that Urban Meyer doesn’t think this team can score any other way.

Penn State’s next drive sputtered, and the Nittany Lions lined up to punt. Another trademark of Urban Meyer teams would appear next: scoring off special teams. Penn State’s blocking scheme failed to account for an oncoming rusher, and the blocked punt ended up in the hands of Lerentee McCray for a TD.

The uptick in tempo continued through the next series, when Matt McGloin hit Derek Moye for a 44 yard reception to the half yard line. Fullback Michael Zordich pounded in for the touchdown on the next play, and it’s suddenly a seesaw game in Tampa.

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Outback Bowl, Florida Vs. Penn State: Florida Gives, And Penn State Takes (The Lead)

Florida began their first offensive possession in the Outback Bowl with a familiar play. John Brantley dropped back for a pass, scanned the Penn State defense confidently, and then stepped into a throw that ended up just where it’s ended up for much of the year: in the hands of a defender running the other way.

If this sounds surprising to you, you haven’t watched Florida play offense this year. After going three and out on their first possession, Penn State turned qb Matt McGloin loose, however, on the drive following the possession. He would find WR Derek Moye for a TD in single coverage, and Penn State took a 7-0 lead early.

Florida would return the favor by intercepting McGloin on the following possession, but Florida’s offensive dysfunction would only get worse. QB Trey Burton, leaping for the goal line, fumbled into the endzone for a touchback. The only high point for a Florida fan watching this is Joe Paterno’s stellar hipster vintage Polo sweater, proving to people of all ages that fashion, like Joe Paterno, has no expiration date.

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2011 Outback Bowl Game: Time, Location, History And More

To help prime you for Friday's college football quadruple-header, we've compiled this handy list of fun factoids concerning the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Proper name: The Outback Bowl, named after Australian-themed steakhouse, Outback.

Setting: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Traditional conference pairing: Big Ten versus SEC.

2011 matchup: The Penn State Nittany Lions and Florida Gators.

Announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Suzy Kolbert. Yep, this may be as bad as it sounds.

Weather: Partly cloudy and a lovely 76 degrees in Tampa on Saturday.

Neatest fact: Outback features a Bloomin' Onion appetizer. It's as delicious as it sounds.

Closest finish: A handful of three-point games is as close as the Outback Bowl has gotten. The latest game decided by a field goal happened last year, when Auburn beat Northwest in overtime, 38-35.

Most lopsided finish: A 42-7 beat-down delivered to NC State by Michigan in 1994.

Tidbits of interest: The Outback Bowl will be Urban Meyer's final game as head coach of the Gators. At Penn State, it will be Joe Paterno's eighty millionth game as head coach. Florida and Penn State have met twice before, with Florida winning both matchups.

The 2011 Outback Bowl kicks off at 1 p.m. EST, Saturday, Jan. 1. The game will be televised on ABC. For a complete list of bowls, browse our 2010 college football postseason schedule.

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Outback Bowl, Florida vs. Penn State: The Urban Meyer Era Ends For The Gators

The Outback Bowl featuring Florida and Penn State may be the strangest match-up of New Year's Day for many reasons. It's a matchup of two powers coming off less-than-satisfactory seasons; it will feature two dysfunctional offenses; and finally, it is sponsored by an "Australian" steak chain actually headquartered in "Tampa."

The weirdness of all weirdness is that 84 year old Joe Paterno will not be the coach just a few hours from retirement in this game. That would be Urban Meyer, Florida's coach, who earlier this month announced his second retirement due to health concerns.

Not outlasting Joe Paterno is no shame, since whole countries have come and gone in the span of his long and extremely productive life. The great question today is whether Urban Meyer will get to play the opposite of role he occupied against Michigan in the 2008 Capital One Bowl when a retiring Lloyd Carr beat Florida. It's a very different situation tactically--Florida's going to play three quarterbacks who barely add up to one whole signal-caller--but in the pregame motivational game, the advantage is clearly Florida's here.

Stay tuned to this StoryStream for updates. And for more on these teams, check in with our Florida blog, Alligator Army, and our Penn State blog, Black Shoe Diaries.

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