TAMPA — Florida coach Urban Meyer ended his first season at Florida with a 31-24 victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Today, he'll end his Florida career in the same place, hoping for a similar result.
"It hit me this week it's his last game, and also mine," senior LB A.J. Jones said. "Every time I see him we're like, 'Let's go out winners. Let's go out with a bang.' We point at each other and tell each other that every day in practice. We're trying to win this for us, and for him too."
For the Gator seniors, today's game has double significance. This group has been a part of national championships and disappointing seasons. They feel an obligation — to Meyer and themselves — to end on a positive note.
"Of course you want to go out a winner," senior C Mike Pouncey said. "It would obviously make everybody's year on the team to send coach out with a win, and send some of these great seniors out with a win, too."
This has been a tumultuous season for Meyer, including the most losses in a season in his career. So even he is curious about whether this team will play its hearts out to help him leave on a good note.
"I do think about that," he said. "I hope they do. … I think the older players will play like there's no tomorrow. And I'm hoping the younger players carry the torch and follow them. I think the (Justin) Trattous of the world and A.J. Joneses, those guys will play because they're the invested group."
Penn State coach Joe Paterno believes the Gators will be motivated by Meyer's departure.
"I expect … a team that's on a mission," Paterno said. "I think they like Urban, and Urban leaving and the whole business is a plus for them."
DEFENDING THE THREE: Florida's three-quarterback system has been at times successful, at others a dismal failure this season, but for Penn State it poses a challenge that the Nittany Lions haven't seen this year.
"The difference is that they are all in the game, sometimes at the same time," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "So you can't base your game plan on who's the quarterback — they're not going to let you do that. They're not going to say okay No. 8 is in, they are going to do this, or No. 11 is in so they're going to do this.
"And the other thing you have to be aware of is what they've done through the first 12 games might not hold water to what they've been able to put in now with so much time off."
ROYSTER RANKS FIRST: From a national perspective, Penn State senior Evan Royster's steady climb atop the Nittany Lions' all-time rushing yardage chart has been with little fanfare.
Yet very quietly, Royster (3,834 yards, 29 TDs) has leapfrogged the likes of John Cappelletti, Lydell Mitchell, Curtis Enis, Curt Warner and all the rest.
"It's awesome," said Royster, who needs 84 yards today to become the first Nittany Lion to notch three 1,000-yard seasons. "Just to be kind of mentioned in the same sentences as those guys is really something special and something I'll never forget."