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Monday, January 2, 2012
Notebook: Inspired by Meyer

By Jeff Barlis
GatorNation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was called the Urban Meyer Bowl by many, but no one really knows if the man himself was even in town.

The former Florida coach and new Ohio State coach said weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio, that he planned to watch Monday's Gator Bowl from one of his homes in the Gainesville, Fla., area.

Urban Meyer
New Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was still on the minds of his former players at Florida.
Still, the speculation ran rampant.

"I know he was in the booth," Florida sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. "I talked to a couple of their players that I know that are from Philly (Floyd's hometown), so I knew he was here all week.

"Again, I'm happy for him. He's making the best decision for him and his family, and good luck to him."

Call it a game of Where's Waldo, or a game within a game. Meyer's presence -- either literal or figurative -- was on the minds of several of the Florida players he recruited.

Gator sophomore safety Matt Elam, who tweeted, "I pray to GOD we play Ohio State in the Bowl Game..!" when Meyer became coach of the Buckeyes, was pleased with the outcome.

"I hate to talk about that, but it touched me a lot just to play against Ohio State," Elam said. "I had a lot of anger built up, because Urban was my man. So there was a lot of anger built up, and I was ready to release it, and I felt like I did. It was great. It's a great feeling to beat Ohio State.

"It was a great feeling just to beat the team he's coaching for. It was a great feeling. I love Coach Meyer, but it was just a great feeling, because he's a great guy, a great coach.

"It's all about competitiveness, no hard feelings."

Florida senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard was among those who credited Meyer with providing extra motivation.

"I had a lot of frustration," he said of a particularly violent sack. "Urban brought it out in me today."

Howard said Meyer's name didn't come up much in the Gators preparation, but the players he recruited "took it to heart."

"It did [make it special], knowing that he's going to be their future coach," Howard said. "He recruited me. I have love for him. I'm going to miss him, but I wish him the best."

Coaching vacancies

Florida coach Muschamp said he is "very close" to naming a strength and conditioning coach, but he has "no timetable" for his vacant offensive coordinator position.

"I've just got to finalize some things and get with Jeremy [Foley, Athletic Director]," Muschamp said of the strength coach, "and after that the offensive coordinator, I've got no timetable."

Muschamp was pleased with interim offensive coordinator Brian White, saying it was nothing new for White to call plays.

"It's not his first time. He's done it on a big stage before in the Rose Bowl, and he did it at Wisconsin for nine years for Barry Alvarez," Muschamp said. "Brian's an outstanding football coach, certainly under consideration, but at the end of the day we're going to hire the best fit for the University of Florida as we move forward."

The Gators had 299 yards of total offense against Ohio State (137 yards rushing, 162 yards passing), although UF had just two scoring drives (one touchdown, one 17-yard field goal).

Offensive line injuries

Muschamp acknowledged the team "got a little thin there at offensive tackle."

"I asked Frank [Verducci, offensive line coach] if he wanted me to dress out and he said no," Muschamp joked.

Already without left tackle Matt Patchan, the Gators lost backup Xavier Nixon when he "tweaked a knee," according to Muschamp. Right tackle Chaz Green also injured his right ankle and left the game. Muschamp said both players should be fine.

The Gators finished the game with redshirt sophomores Nick Alajajian and Kyle Koehne at tackle. Florida also started fifth-year senior James Wilson at left guard in place of senior Dan Wenger (foot).

Extra points

• Florida (7-6) has a 24-year streak of winning seasons, the longest active run of success in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Gators also have 32 straight seasons with at least a .500 record. Both marks are well ahead of Virginia Tech (19 seasons).

• UF won it's fourth straight bowl game and has played in a bowl game in 21 straight seasons, a streak that ranks first in the Southeastern Conference and second in the nation. Florida is 20-19 in its bowl history, 7-2 in the Gator Bowl.

• Attendance was 61,312, as both schools were unable to sell their allotment of tickets. The weather at kickoff was sunny but a cool 57 degrees.

• NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., served as honorary captain of the game and drove onto the field before flipping the coin toss. "American Idol" finalist Bo Bice sang the national anthem.

• Florida's captains were seniors John Brantley, Jeff Demps, Jaye Howard and William Green.

Jeff Barlis is editor and writer for GatorNation. He can be reached at jeffbarlis.espn@gmail.com or on Twitter @JeffBarlisESPN.