JACKSONVILLE — Will Muschamp has been Florida's coach for more than a year. And, for more than a year, he has been envisioning a dominant pass rush.
On Monday, finally, Muschamp and his players and every Gators fan saw a unit fulfill its potential, if only for one afternoon in a game between a couple of .500 teams.
Florida registered a season-high six sacks on Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller in a 24-17 win in the Gator Bowl. Miller, a dual-threat freshman who rushed for 695 yards in the regular season, was also bottled up by the Gators' seven- and sometimes eight-man fronts, gaining 20 yards on 15 carries.
Monday's effort was in stark contrast with what has been for the most part a disappointing effort this season. Entering the bowl, Florida ranked 71st in the nation with just 22 sacks in 12 games.
"He's a little bit jumpy," sophomore Sharrif Floyd said of Miller. "He sees a little flash of defense in his face; he wants to run out of there. … We did a good job of keeping him contained. You stop the run, you win the game."
Floyd, who rotated between end and tackle for the first time this season, was credited with 1 1/2 sacks. Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Jaye Howard and Ronald Powell also sacked Miller.
Howard said the linemen were able to jump snaps after identifying an idiosyncrasy from Buckeyes center Mike Brewster. Watching film of Ohio State's game against Penn State, Howard saw that Brewster bobbed his head right before snapping the ball.
The interior defensive linemen watched for that movement all afternoon Monday.
"You saw what we were able to do today," Howard said.
Muschamp compared Miller to former Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, whom Muschamp game-planned for as Texas' defensive coordinator before the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
He said the key was to keep Miller in the pocket, where he rarely looked comfortable Monday, bouncing around as he waited for a running lane to develop even on pass plays.
To prepare last month, Florida used reserve quarterback Tyler Murphy on its scout team. Murphy, considered the team's fastest passer, was asked to try to get outside the pocket against the Gators' first-team defense.
"Everybody had to stay in their lane," junior linebacker Jon Bostic said. "We wanted to get to the quarterback. We knew that we had to get to him before he could get going. I felt that we did a good job today."